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Is NCAA March Madness Betting Legal?


March 27, 2017

Is filling out a March Madness bracket illegal?

Spring is right around the corner. For some, that means one thing: warm weather. For others, that means it’s time for March Madness. Each year, millions of Americans root for teams that made it to the NCAA Tournament – whether they’re gunning for their alma mater or not – hoping to see a competitive matchup in the final game. Viewers aren’t just watching, however – they’re also filling out brackets and placing bets. Some people do it for the fun of it or for bragging rights, while others do it for a cash prize.

Is March Madness Betting Legal?

Photo courtesy of Stocksnap.io

Last year, the American Gaming Association predicted that Americans would spend nearly $9.2 billion on March Madness bets. Of that total, only about $262 million bets will be considered legal in Nevada sports books. So what does that mean for the rest of the country? Is filling out a March Madness bracket illegal?

What laws are being tested?

According to Forbes contributor Marc Edelman, who specializes in legal issues in sports, fantasy sports and online gaming, NCAA Tournament pools raise conflict over three different federal laws. Those include the Interstate Wire Act of 1961, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act and the Uniform Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. There’s also discussion that filling out a bracket violates state gambling laws, depending on where you’re playing.

  • Interstate Wire Act of 1961 – According to ESPN, the Interstate Wire Act of 1961 prohibits parties from communicating about making bets on a sporting event or contest. This communication includes discussion via telephone and internet.
  • Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act – PAPSA is a 1992 federal law that restricts all states besides Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana from legalizing sports gambling, according to an excerpt from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Gaming Law Journal.
  • Uniform Internet Gambling Enforcement Act – According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, UIGEA makes it illegal for someone to accept a payment from someone that is linked to a bet or wager that involves Internet gambling that is illegal within the state’s laws.

Beyond certain federal laws, March Madness gambling may conflict with state laws. Online gambling, as well as casino and poker betting, is legal on a state-by-state basis. Certain forms of gambling may be legal somewhere where they would be considered illegal elsewhere. Consider this U.S. state gambling laws sheet for reference.

Should you be worried?

How likely is it that you’ll get arrested for joining your office’s March Madness pool? Slim to none, according to CNBC. Simply put, betting in the NCAA Tournament has become a part of office and everyday culture. The risk often lies in the hands of those running the pool, or those who enter a betting pool online, where proof of betting is stored. Nonetheless, the chance of repercussions is unlikely.

If you have any other questions in regard to March Madness betting pools or other legal sports information, please contact me, Anthony Caruso, at 201-806-3364.

Any comments or questions, please feel free to contact us with the form below.

Author: Anthony R. Caruso


The attorneys in Scarinci Hollenbeck’s Entertainment, Media, and Sports Law Group are well-versed in the unique issues and challenges facing those in the entertainment, media, and sports industries. Our attorneys have significant collective experience in a plethora of entertainment, media, and sports matters, and have represented clients in transactions stemming from all types of contracts, negotiations, mediations, arbitrations, as well as other dispute resolution. They have expertise in areas including print media, literary, music, television, motion picture, broadcast and cable television, radio, advertisement/branding. Other areas of concentration include but are not limited to, fine art, and digital technologies.

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