Selection Sunday is behind us and March Madness, college basketball’s championship tournament, has officially begun. Basketball fans across the country have filled out their brackets and are placing money in pools with friends, family, and even coworkers. In fact, March Madness is second only to the Superbowl in popularity for office pools, so seeding, upsets, and Cinderella stories will likely dominate worksite chatter for the next few weeks as teams advance to the finals.
Office pools are everywhere and the overt and enthusiastic participation of employees may have you wondering if they are legal or at least condoned? In practice, only 10% of employers have a written policy addressing office pools while more than two-thirds of HR professionals recognize the positive impact these pools can have on camaraderie between coworkers.
Are office pools legal in Hawaii?
Technically, no, not in Hawaii. Most states, including Hawaii, consider office pools illegal gambling. However, “friendly wagers” of $5-20 are so widespread and so manini, they are not likely to garner attention from law enforcement. That being said, there are some things you should be aware of if you allow office pools in your workplace.
- Running a pool that runs into the thousands of dollars and the house taking a cut is a Class C felony punishable by up to $10,000 in fines and five years in jail.
- Misdemeanor conviction for gambling (possible for participating in an office pool) can carry punishment of a $2,000 fine and a year in jail.
- Legal “social gambling” cannot be conducted in public areas or places of business such as offices, restaurants, bars, and restaurants.
- Minors cannot participate.
March Madness brings additional concerns to the workplace from a human resources perspective. These include decreased productivity and personal use of company resources such as email and internet bandwidth. To combat bogged down networks as employees stream games to their workstations, some employers opt to air games in break rooms where employees can come and watch.
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Set up a gambling and internet use policy
Whether or not you decide to use sporting events to build camaraderie, now is a good time to remind your employees about your company’s policies about what is acceptable behavior in the workplace such as internet use and gambling. If you don’t already have a policy on gambling, you might consider one like this:
- [Company Name] prohibits most forms of gambling in the workplace, including professional or organized gambling activities. The company may allow exceptions to this prohibition for office or department-sanctioned pools, raffles, friendly wagers or [Company Name]-sponsored events supporting a charitable or fundraising cause.
- Employees must seek the approval of the human resource (HR) department prior to engaging in any gambling activities. Failure to comply with this policy may result in disciplinary action, including possible termination of employment. The HR department ensures that [Company Name] is in compliance with all applicable federal, state, and local gambling laws.
Good luck with your decision on how to handle the Madness in your workplace and may the the odds be ever in your favor.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Readers should first consult their attorney, accountant or adviser before acting upon any information in this article.