March Madness is upon us, and while many people are rooting for their favorite teams, others have their eye on the office pool.
But while filling out the brackets can be fun, if there’s a prize involved and you pay to play, office pools are gambling, and in Kansas that makes them illegal, says Bill Miskell with the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission.
“Sports betting is illegal in every state except Nevada and New Jersey,” Miskell said. “That’s a federal code.” But any other game of chance – other than exceptions clearly outline in state law books – is illegal if three things are present: 1. consideration (that is, paying to play), 2. chance and 3. a prize.
It doesn’t matter if the stakes are low, he added. “If you put a dollar in the pot or you put a dime in the pot and the outcome of that activity is based on chance, and if there is a prize for that activity, those three factors make it illegal in Kansas.”
True, the Gaming Commission doesn’t go looking for office pools, so the odds of being prosecuted are virtually non-existent. Local law enforcement would be responsible for investigating alleged gambling violations, and it would be up to the local county attorney whether or not to prosecute.
While office pools crop up at certain times of the year, so-called raffles are a more common violation of Kansas gambling law, Miskell said. It doesn’t matter if the price on a ticket is a “suggested donation,” he added. By suggesting the monetary value of a ticket, sponsors of the drawing are promoting the elements that constitute gambling.
That’s not to say that the commission has a beef with March Madness.
“We recognize that people have fun filling out the brackets,” Miskell said. Doing so for bragging rights is not a violation of the law.
The commission also isn’t trying to put non-profit organizations out of business. “We know that a number of not-for-profits rely on fundraising to exist,” he said. “We want them to comply with Kansas law.” The commission encourages legal forms of fundraising, such as silent auctions. Anyone with questions about the law or in need of ideas for a legal fundraiser may call his office, 785-296-5800.