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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Office Pools: a Safe Bet? by Marie Leone FROM

Reportedly, a few years ago, the FBI calculated that in aggregate, office pools hit the $2.5 billion mark. But for the most part, single-pool proceeds are relatively small potatoes, ranging anywhere from $200 to a few thousand dollars. So, companies that look the other way when employees run pools really don't run a big risk of being the target of a federal or state criminal investigation, says Steve Miller, a labor employment partner in the Chicago office of Fisher & Phillips.

Still, Miller says there are some risks related to betting pools that management should understand. To start, under state penal codes, sports gambling is illegal. And even in states that allow casino and racetrack betting, for example, running a gambling operation without a license is a violation of the code. As a result, some companies specifically prohibit office pools that involve money, and issue written corporate policies to that effect. That could be a good idea even if a company has no intention of prohibiting pools, just so it has something to point to if the game somehow gets out of control.

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