MELISSA BLOCK, host:
March Madness starts today. Millions are expected to watch over the next few weeks as 64 teams vie for the NCAA Men's College Basketball Championship.
It's likely that a good number of fans will have a vested interest in the outcome. That's because they're part of an office pool. This annual workplace ritual got NPR's Sonari Glinton wondering: is it actually legal?
SONARI GLINTON: If you think you can't get into any trouble after filling out your college basketball brackets, well, you'd be wrong. First of all, if it's an office pool, many companies ban any kind of gambling. That's trouble. Then there's the law.
Mr. ANTHONY N. CABOT (Attorney): The legality of NCAA bracket contests in offices is really dependent upon state law.
GLINTON: Tony Cabot has been practicing gaming law for more than 30 years. He says most run-of-the-mill pools are okay. If you're running the office pool, that's where it gets dicey, especially if you're taking a percentage for running it.
Mr. CABOT: You're almost certainly violating the law then. Virtually every state prohibits somebody from conducting these types of gambling activities where they're receiving profits for operating the gambling activity.
GLINTON: Rethinking those brackets yet? Tom Dart is the sheriff of Cook County, Illinois, a place that's no stranger to vice.
Sheriff TOM DART (Cook County, Illinois): In the area of vice, we are so busy I would have to have my head examined if I was chasing around office pools.
GLINTON: So Sheriff Tom Dart says you may not have too much to worry about with him, but...
Sheriff DART: I really think they have much more to worry about with an IRS investigation because if you do hit it big, and you walk away with a lot of money, and you happen to get audited, and it turns out that you never declared it as income, that's a problem.
GLINTON: Tony Cabot says the sheriff is right.
Mr. CABOT: If you do win, you should always make sure that you pay your necessary taxes.
GLINTON: Are you a part of a pool for NCAA?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. CABOT: Yeah, I'm involved in a non-monetary pool.
GLINTON: A non-monetary pool. Who do you have going all the way?
Mr. CABOT: I have Kansas.
GLINTON: I'll see you there at the Final Four.
Mr. CABOT: There you go.
GLINTON: All right folks, have fun and pay your taxes. Sonari Glinton, NPR News.
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