USA v. Ghana: Are World Cup Office Pools Legal?

Posted on 06-16-2014 by
Tags: Latst Headlines & Stories , Ethics , compliance , trending news

With the world cup already underway, today many Americans will rally around the United States Men’s Soccer team as the U.S. plays Ghana in the 2014 FIFA World Cub. And, just like with March Madness, an office pool may have employees predicting the final result wagering a de minimis amount of money (like say $5) and the winner receives the pot or maybe even just the glory.

As you probably already know, any ‘gambling’ pool arrangement appears to violate many states’ penal code on gambling, and pools just like fantasy football drafts, as well as March Madness and World Cup pools technically violate the law. But what about just a little wagering among co-workers especially if the amount is under $5?

According to Pregame.com, wagering on last year's March Madness tournament likely exceeded $12 billion, more money than was riding on the 2013 Super Bowl. Of that, $3 billion was estimated to be put into office pools of tournament brackets.

But it's unlikely anyone was arrested last year for taking part in the office pool, and it's unlikely anyone will be arrested this year or anytime in the future because office pools have become part of office culture, like picking the Oscar winners every year, which in theory falls under the same laws as March Madness and World Cup pools.

Here are a few tips to keep your office pool on the up-and-up, as reported by 23ABC News:

  • Keep wagers small. If you are all betting $100 or more that's a sign your pool could be pushing the limits of the law.
  • The coordinator of the pool cannot profit from his work, or take a cut of the winnings.  That's called taxable income.
  • There should never be an entry fee for your office pool. 
  • Request that the winners and runner up winners names be posted publicly, with their brackets posted, so you can be sure there is no favoritism.  ("What, the boss won again?")

And, if all else fails, ask the winner to donate the winning proceeds to his or her favorite charitable organization. Just remind the winner not to claim the donation as a tax write off, or that can open up other legal issues. 

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