March Madness: New Networking Sites Present New Problems for NCAA Tournament Pools

Here is an interesting article from the Chicago Tribune, on a timely topic – March Madness.  The article discusses the legality of NCAA tournament pools, specifically those run on social networking sites such as facebook.com.  Las Vegas attorney Anthony Cabot was interviewed for the article and stated that an online pool is illegal should it meet the following two requirements:

One is if “people pay” to play and the other is if they “win a prize in a game of chance as the result of an event they are not participants in. Such as sports wagering.”

“So if you’re doing something where people are paying money for the opportunity to win a prize, then there’s a strong possibility they could be violating the laws of a majority of states,” he said. “There is no question this raises legal issues. … It’s a pretty straightforward situation.”

Of course, the question most people are concerned with is whether they will actually be prosecuted for participating in an office pool.  Typically, the answer is no – it is not worth the government’s resources.  However, an online pool has the potential to attract an unlimited number of participants, and involve gambling transactions that cross state lines.  Thus, the online pool appears to carry greater risk.  The bottom line is that any pay-to-play pools are illegal and carry the inherent although somewhat minor, risk of prosecution.

Comments

  1. I do not agree that the risk of prosecution is hedged if you only participate in an office pool. Many offices may use sophisticated online software which could be adjudged to cross state lines (i.e. software provider out of state). However, I believe the government priority analysis is the threshhold which many participants weigh when deciding whether or not to throw their $20 into an office pool.

  2. Would ESPN’s “Beat the Streak” be considered at risk according to Cabot because the participant does not have to pay to join but could win a significant prize. Basically, you’re choosing which baseball player will get a hit…similar to which basketball team will get a win (in the tournament).

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Trackbacks

  1. […] here to see Rapp’s article in its entirety.  Stay tuned for more legal issues in March Madness as the tournament draws […]

  2. […] Connecticut Sports Law touched on this topic a few years ago in March Madness: New Networking Sites Present New Problems for NCAA Tournament Pools. […]

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