Basketball fans all over the country who are eager to fill out their NCAA brackets, look forward to March Madness each spring. Perhaps the excitement stems from their dreams of winning huge cash prizes from their office pools. Pay-to-play though is prohibited in most states.
And while it’s usually illegal, most fans just ignore that fact and just focus on their dreams of winning big… or maybe some just want the bragging rights.
State laws do vary on this issue, but even in the ones where it is illegal– gamblers are hardly ever prosecuted. Virginia’s gambling law doesn’t specifically mention office pools, but it does “forbid betting on a game or contest in which the outcome is uncertain.”
In the case of the military, however, the Navy is sending out a stern warning that sailors should not participate in pay-to-play March Madness office pools, the Virginian-Pilot reports.
Even if they ‘re in a state where office pools are legal, sailors are still off limits in federal facilities, including naval vessels. So, in a place like Hampton Roads — which is considered “the east coast epicenter of military activity” — there are plenty of places where sailors cannot engage in this activity.
The Pilot reports that sailors who pay to participate in such pools could be prosecuted in different ways. Violators could face adverse administrative action or even disciplinary action under UCMJ. They could be charged with “violation of a lawful general order, conduct unbecoming an officer or fraternization if enlisted personnel were involved.” The maximum penalties for those charges are one to two years’ confinement — along with dismissal and forfeiture of pay.
You may be thinking right now: “But, we always do March Madness brackets at the office!”
Military officials say as long as it doesn’t violate your office policy on the use of government computers, “filling out a March Madness bracket and following along to see who wins is not a problem on its own.”
Lt. Kathy Paradis, member of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, says: “It becomes a problem, however, once people start putting money into a pool or otherwise betting on who wins in hopes of winning the pool (and the cash) at the end of the tournament.”
According to the American Gaming Association, “Of the $9.2 billion that will be wagered on the tournament this year, only about $262 million will be bet legally at Nevada sports books.”
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