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Employers take a gamble with March Madness office pools

Q&A with Philip Bruce

published in The Oklahoman | March 10, 2017

In a Q&A with The Oklahoman, McAfee & Taft employment lawyer and college basketball enthusiast Phil Bruce outlined the risks employers take when sponsoring a March Madness office pool. While such pools are technically illegal in Oklahoma, the risk of enforcement is low so long as the entry fees associated with filling out a bracket are small. The more likely risk to businesses, he said, is a loss of productivity.

“In addition to realizing that these pools are illegal, employers also should look at their own internal policies,” said Bruce. “If the employer has an anti-gambling policy then, like any other policy, it should enforce it fairly and consistently. Picking and choosing when to enforce the policy can later lead to other problems. For example, a terminated employee may argue that the employer illegally discriminated when the employer applied the policy in his or her case but not to those involved in an office pool. If the employer doesn’t have a policy and is willing to take the legal risk and dip in productivity, then the employer should make sure all participants in the pool understand the rules and keep the betting to a small amount of money.”