As the old saying goes, March comes in like a Husky. Well, not exactly but as both the UCONN Women’s and Men’s basketball teams embark on their journeys to National Titles (hopefully), it is a good time to answer the age-old question: Are office pools legal in Connecticut?
The answer is for the most part, Yes. Indeed, over the years the Connecticut State Police have issued safety advisories in advance of the Super Bowl, in which they discuss designating a sober driver, but they also have included a note about gambling. The note states in part: “In Connecticut ‘FOOTBALL POOLS’ are legal as long as all of the money taken in for the pool is given back to the winners participating in that pool. All monies received must go back to the winners of the pool. No ‘percentage’ or ‘cut’ can be taken by the person organizing the pool for his/her time and/or expense of running the pool.”
Therefore, an office pool is legal as long as all the money taken in for the pool is paid out.
Notwithstanding this, it is probably a best practice to allow an employee to run a pool and not a pool sponsored by the Employer. However, the Employer should make it clear to the pool organizer that all money must be paid out. Also, having an employee run a pool may alleviate pressure on employees who may not want to participate, or feel pressure to do so that they may have felt if the Employer ran the pool. If an Employer wants to run a pool it is probably better to run a pool that is voluntary, with no entry fee, and non-monetary prizes.
While Office pools are generally legal, Employers should be cognizant of the potential employee productivity issues. On some days, the games begin as early as noon and run throughout the entire workday, and are available to watch on cell phones and computers. To ensure that productivity does not come to a complete halt, Employers should remind their employees of the permissible use of company owned devices and enforce policies regarding the use of personal devices during work time. It may also be a good time to check in with employees more frequently than usual and be conscious of employee attendance.
Employers are encouraged to work with counsel if they have any questions or concerns with the Madness that is March.