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The other March madness

By Jeff Terrill

Fort Wayne Reader


March Madness is upon us. College basketball fans all over the country are filling out NCAA tournament brackets. Millions of people will pay entry fees ranging from a few bucks to hundreds of dollars and more. Only a few office pool entrants will win. Many more will lose. But almost all paying participants will be breaking the law.

According to the FBI, college basketball fans will bet more than $2 billion on the NCAA menís basketball tournament games this month. The vast majority of those wagers, bets and office pools take place in states other than Nevadaówhere itís legal. In addition to state laws that prohibit betting on sports, many federal laws outlaw it.

Meet Michael. Heís been with the same industrial supply company for almost ten years. Michael is well liked at his job and heís also the chief organizer of the companyís annual college basketball office pool. Michael is not a real person.

Michaelís office pool gets bigger every year. Each bracket entry costs $20 and there is no limit this year on the number of entries per person. Many of Michaelís co-workers recruited friends and family members from outside the company to participate as well. Over 400 brackets are entered and Michael projects that the payouts will be over $8,000.

Even Michaelís bosses give him a pass at his job for the next few weeks. They know how much effort it takes to keep the brackets organized and the results updated after each round. Michael streams all the weekday games live in his cubicle. He sends out emails a few times a day with score updates.

Michael keeps fairly accurate records and will frequently dip into the entry fees to pay for pizza, beverages and other office pool related items. No one ever questions Michaelís accounting.

Michael doesnít know it yet but a state excise officer is one of this yearís participants in his office pool. The officer appreciates all of Michaelís emails listing the other names of the pool and how each is doing. The officer also welcomes the easy access to the email addresses for all of the participants. The officer enters brackets in several different office pools this year.

The officer knows that if criminal charges are filed against Michael, his boss and others for promoting professional gambling that there will be an entirely new level of March Madness.

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