Stop The (March) Madness!

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Are you considering starting or allowing a March Madness office pool in your workplace? Last year, roughly 40 million Americans filled out a total of 70 million brackets and bet $9 billion on March Madness, according to data from the American Gaming Association. Yet, no matter what team tops your bracket, it’s a bad bet to allow gambling in the workplace. While it may seem to be a fun activity that promotes camaraderie and a little office competition, there are dicey legal and ethical problems that go along with it.

True or False?

An office pool is harmless fun!

False: Office pools are technically illegal in most states. You can only legally have an office pool if your office is located in Nevada, where sports wagering is legal; in Montana, where sports pools are legal as long as the facilitator doesn’t take a cut; and in Vermont and Connecticut, where small-time pools among friends and colleagues are allowed.

Gambling has become part of the American sports culture, but it is a smart idea to keep it outside the walls of the office. It’s estimated that the amount wagered illegally on last year’s Super Bowl was 38 times greater than the amount wagered legally in Vegas casinos. Think twice about your corporate policy and the morals and ethics your business believes in before encouraging or participating in an office pool.

An office pool promotes healthy competition and office camaraderie.

False: Sure, there may be more buzz around the water cooler, but having an office pool could also create disharmony in the workplace. A losing bracket could cause co-workers to feel discouraged and potentially foster negative feelings towards the other members of the pool. Competition, especially when stakes are high, can cause tension throughout the workplace.

Think about your stakeholders as well. Your customers, board members and shareholders may be troubled by the practice of on-site betting. Some may have a religious objection to it, others may be concerned that employees will not give their full attention to their work. Whatever the objections are, they deserve to be taken seriously.

By allowing an office pool in my workplace, my employees will be more distracted.

True: The office isn’t an appropriate place for gambling. Things that interfere with doing our job should be done before or after work. It is estimated that as a nation, companies are expected to lose at least $1.2 billion for every unproductive work hour during the first week of the tournament. Especially through the encouragement of an office pool, employees will be tuning into the games while at work, surfing the web to find scores and chatting with other co-workers about it.

There are other ways to celebrate March Madness without an office pool. For example, prevent unplanned absences related to March Madness by serving a catered lunch on the first two days of the tournament, or have highlights of the games playing on TVs around the office. Also consider your employees who may have gambling problems, or the ones who are struggling with financial debt before deciding to start an office pool. By keeping gambling out of the workplace, your employees will feel safe and productive.

Learn more about how to better promote your company’s Employee Assistance Program, specifically their gambling problem counseling, contact your EFR Account Manager.

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