March Madness Spawns Gambling Madness

A new study by Vault, Inc. shows that office betting pools are more popular than ever. Vault’s 2006 Office Betting Pools Survey reveals that 67 percent of employees admit to participating in office betting pools, while 61 percent participated last year.


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Another survey question might reveal more correct participation figures. Seventy-seven percent of respondents were asked if their fellow employees took part in office pools and answered yes. Vault reported that some 328 respondents, representing a variety of industries, took part in the survey that is conducted each mid-February.

The most popular events remain the Super Bowl and regular NFL season play, at 65 percent and 61 percent, respectively. Vault reports that the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, or March Madness to some, rated 57 percent of responses, while pregnancy pools rated 19 percent, the Academy Awards rated 13 percent, and the television “reality” shows, such as “Survivor,” “American Idol,” and “The Apprentice”, rated 12 percent.

Other findings included:

  • 73.5 percent of respondents take only 5 to 10 minutes to make their picks and did further research at home.
  • 52.5 percent of respondents are aware that office pools may be illegal in some states, depending on circumstances.
  • 63 percent of respondents say that illegality doesn’t affect their participation in office pools.
  • 80.5 percent of respondents say that people do not take the possible illegality of office pools seriously.
  • 86 percent of offices do not have policies against office pools.
  • 2 percent of respondents have gotten into trouble with their bosses for participating in an office pool.
  • 76 percent of respondents said their primary motivation for participating was to have a little harmless fun at work.
  • 17 percent of respondents said their primary motivation for participating was to win money.
  • 7 percent of respondents said their primary motivation for participating was to prove their ability at picking winners.
  • 53 percent of respondents said their entry cost was about $5.
  • 28 percent of respondents said they paid about $10.
  • 10 percent of respondents said they paid $20 to enter an office betting pool.
  • 47 percent of respondents said they won $100 or under.
  • 18 percent of respondents said they won between $101 and $200.
  • 13 percent of respondents said they won $201 and $300.
  • 12 percent of respondents said they won $301 and $500.
  • 4 percent of respondents said they won over $1000.

As for March Madness and it’s increased interest to gamblers to bet the brackets, the NCAA is seeking assistance from Las Vegas casino bookmakers. The Arizona Republic reports that the NCAA is sending an observer to Las Vegas for the next two weekends to work with sport book operators, seeking to learn more about the sports wagering business. Their goal in combining their strengths is to have honest games.

Rachel Newman-Baker, agent, gambling, and amateurism activities director for the NCAA, told the Arizona Republic, “It does seem like a strange partnership and certainly we have different jobs and we work in different fields, but when it comes to protecting the integrity of the games, we’re fighting the same fight.”

Jay Kornegay told the Arizona Republic, “Any type of relationship we can build there, we’re behind 100 percent. It’s a step in the right direction. We want true games, and we want (the NCAA) to have an understanding of our business, how we run our race and sport books and all the rules and regulations.” Kornegay runs the race and sport book for the Las Vegas Hilton.

For another perspective of gambling, Ed Mooney, executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey wrote in a prepared statement released in 2000, “The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) anti-gambling campaign on college games is tainted. The NCAA needs to say NO to sponsors such as Pepsi®, whose ‘under the bottle cap’ contests encourage young people to try to win prizes based on the tournaments’ Final Four teams. These seemingly innocent contests are, for many young people, the stepping stones to betting on the games.”

Mooney continued in his prepared statement, “Many compulsive gamblers relate that the first ‘big win’ was the ‘rush’ that they continued to chase through the losing and desperation phases of their gambling. To future gamblers these contests, sanctioned by the NCAA, go hand in hand with the theme of the Lottery’s ‘Dollar and a Dream,’ our new national anthem. We are encouraging our children to ante up their piggy banks to buy more Pepsi® than they really need, to try to win NCAA Final Four shirts and hats. Gambling experts will tell you that when you risk something of value to try to win something, you are chasing that feeling that for some may lead to an addiction. The adrenaline rush and high that young persons experience as they twist open the bottle cap to see if they have a chance to win…is a similar high that compulsive gamblers experience when they anticipate the outcome of a game they bet on.”

You can review IRS resources on gambling income and losses at http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=108277,00.html. The web page has links to other IRS resources including Form W-2G, Publications 529 and 525, and Tax Tip 419, Gambling Income and Expenses.

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