Friend or Foe: March Madness Office Pools

March 25, 2016
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The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is in progress, and close to 60 million workers across the country have joined office pools. As a result, Monmouth County employers may have concerns about the legality of March Madness office pools as well as their effect on office productivity.

State law largely governs unlicensed gambling, such as March madness office pools. New Jersey employers actually have less to worry about than employers in other states. While New Jersey’s state gambling statute prohibits unlicensed gambling, the law contains an exception that appears to apply to low-stakes gambling pools where the organizer (“house”) does not profit.

Friend or Foe: March Madness Office Pools

Therefore, under New Jersey law, a March madness office pool is generally legal under the following circumstances:

  • It does not involve a large amount of money;
  • The stakes are the same for all of the participants; and
  • The organizer does not take a cut.

Nonetheless, the prospect of any type of gambling during office hours may still concern some employers. If a company wants to prohibit office pools for business reasons, it should create a clear written policy. According to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, about 33 percent of companies have employment policies prohibiting workplace gambling, but very few (six percent) have actually disciplined or terminated an employee for violating the policy.

Do Office Pools Decrease Productivity?

The actual effect of office pools on employee productivity is always a hot topic this time of year. As predicted by Chicago-based consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, businesses could have suffered $1.8 billion in lost worker productivity in the first week alone.

To address productivity concerns, management should remind employees that their participation in an office pool is a non-work related activity; therefore, it should not interfere with their job performance.

Are Office Pools All Bad?

Surprisingly, many employers do not think so. According to a study by the Society for Human Resource Management, 55 percent of employers believe that office pools may be good for morale.