March Madness Office Pools: Are They Legal? - ABC5 News Des Moines, IA

March Madness Office Pools: Are They Legal?

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Jessica Daley


People are putting pen to paper, or fingers to the keyboard, across the country as they finish up their NCAA brackets. Many of them will also place bets on the winners. Are those bets even legal?

There is a section in the Iowa Code that allows for gambling in the workplace but there are a few requirements and provisions.
There's a good chance your company is like KJWW Engineering Consultants in Urbandale, they're celebrating March Madness with an office-wide pool.
"We seem to just have a good time, and we just like talking about it,"' said Alex Carnahan who organizes the pool for KJWW. "Even some of the higher ups tend to get in on it. It's fun."

He's been in charge of the pool for the past five years. A massive bracket plasters the wall next to his workspace.

"Everyone pays in a couple bucks. It's only like 4 or 5 bucks per bracket. It's not much."

According to Iowa Code section 99B, individuals cannot win or lose more than $50. That was news to Carnahan and his co-workers and even a local employment law attorney.

"You can only win $50 total which seems a little low depending on how big your pool is," said Elizabeth Overton, an attorney at Sullivan and Ward in West Des Moines.

She looked into the law a few years ago. Office brackets are legal in Iowa because there is a social relationship between all participants.

"You have that relationship so it's not as though you're betting in the Nevada or Las Vegas type betting that we think about," Overton explained.

The section prohibits gambling on school property and doesn't allow anyone but the winner to make any money off it.  Overton has some advice for any March Madness pools.

"Have fun with it. I mean it is a fun thing to do. I guess just keep the limit in mind."
Now, everything you just read you'll want to forget. That's because the last provision of the code says that if you don't know the law, you can't get in trouble.

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