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March Madness and Betting in the Workplace
Basketball Hoop
March 4, 2020

Happy March! This is the month when those who love NCAA basketball begin to think about who will win it all. It is inevitable that employees will partake in setting up office pools to try and win a sum of money by picking the two team(s) to win it all.

There are many statistics that show March as a month where productivity and work engagement fall, and camaraderie increases. An estimated $3 billion will be bet in workplace pools and employees will spend approximately 30 minutes per workday discussing the results with colleagues over the 15 days while the games are played. According to Randstad, nearly 9 out of 10 employees who participate in NCAA brackets at work helped build team camaraderie and 73% said they look forward to going to work more when they are part of an office pool.

Federal law does not explicitly prohibit workplace gambling; although if you have businesses in various states, be aware that there are state statutes regarding gambling. It is up to the employer to decide whether or not to permit office pools for sporting events.

Some employers may choose to ban gambling entirely. Other employers may choose to allow employees to participate in gambling pools for certain designated events like the Super Bowl or Final Four. In such situations, it is best practice to establish clear rules and guidelines such as the maximum amount of the bet and that gambling activity in connection with office pools should not interfere with an employee’s work-related duties and responsibilities. An employer should make sure that the office pool is a casual bet between co-workers and not a mechanism for one employee to profit at the expense of others.

Here are some thoughts and actions that an employer may use when dealing with these sporting event “pools”.

  • The employer should ensure that all employees are aware of the policies and practices.
    • Will employees be allowed to watch games during work time?
    • Will there be flextime offered so that employees may leave early when attending games, or come in later after a late night game?
  • Employers should consider whether to permit employees to use workplace resources such as computers and email to conduct such pools and set forth parameters for use.
  • Employers may require the employees to limit discussion or participation in the gambling to off-work hours and/or break times.
  • Employers also may choose to limit the cost of participating in any pool by making a rule that participation in the workplace sports betting pool may cost no more than $5.00, for example.
  • If an employer chooses to permit office pools, employers should make sure that those employees who choose not to participate or whose religion prohibits gambling do not suffer any harassment.
  • Employers may want to encourage the inevitable camaraderie and have some fun with it. Ask people to wear their favorite team jersey on Fridays to show support. Also, make it clear that the work still comes first and the organization’s expectation is to not let productivity suffer.
  • Employers should determine how this fits into their company culture and customer deliverables before the games actually begin. Also, remember, if you allow time for March Madness, you probably will also have to allow time for other sport’s competitions – Super Bowl, World Cup and World Series to name a few.

Ultimately, it is an employer’s decision how to deal with these sporting events. If they are going to happen anyway, make sure that you have control over it and provide a fun time that will encourage camaraderie while maintaining a professional atmosphere for your business.

Carol Kardas

Carol Kardas

Author

With 25+ years of generalist HR experience, Carol's focus includes compensation, training, and employee relations. She has advanced HR certifications: SPHR, CCP, SHRM-SCP.

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