Every March, offices across Ohio engage in inter-office March Madness pools where co-workers submit NCAA Tournament brackets and compete against one another to see who can score the most points. Usually, each bracket submitted requires an entry fee that goes into a pool, which is then disbursed to those who submitted the top brackets. In 2019, the American Gaming Association projected that 47 million American adults would wager $8.5 billion on that year’s tournament.
But, is it legal? In Ohio the answer is yes – provided no one profits. It is only legal if all the money collected is paid out to the winners. This means no money is taken off the top to pay for food or alcohol at an office party, and no money can be paid from the prize pool as an administrative fee to whomever oversees the pool.
An office pool where all the winnings are paid out is a “pool not conducted for profit” and is legal under Ohio law.
It should be noted that if your office pool involves various offices in multiple states, you need to look to each state’s specific gaming laws to determine the pool’s legality. When pools cross state lines, especially if they do so via internet or phone communications, there are several federal laws that are implicated in addition to each state’s specific gaming laws.