Betting this year on the outcome of Super Bowl 50 is expected to reach $4.2 billion (up from $116 million last year).
Are office pools good or bad for your business? It’s not entirely clear.
The majority of employers believe that office pools are good for morale and foster teamwork; but more than a third say that office pools impede productivity.
Where do you stand? Here are some factors to consider.
Company policy about office pools
According to a 2010 survey, two-thirds of employers did not have any policies about gambling in the workplace. I doubt that this statistic has changed much since then.
If you choose to create a policy against gambling, be sure to be clear about the ramification (e.g., disciplinary action, termination) for violations.
Even without a formal policy, it should be made clear to staff that there is no obligation to participate. Some employees may have personal objections to gambling of any kind, or concerns about risking money they could better use for other purposes.
Are office pools legal? It depends where you’re located. They are in most states as long as it’s informal/social gambling (the organizer doesn’t make money), but office pools are not legal in all states. For example, in Iowa they’re legal if certain conditions are met; they’re never legal in my state of Florida (although they’re undoubtedly being held).
If companies have locations in more than one state, office pools need to consider federal laws. Because faxes, money, and other things cross state lines, I would suggest you talk with a lawyer knowledgeable about federal law on gambling; I’m no expert here.
Checking various articles online, the consensus indicates that office pools harm productivity. Despite my research on the issue of productivity and office pools, I couldn’t find any recent, relevant data to support the consensus. I quite agree that it could adversely impact productivity, but a casual office pool is probably no more distracting than employees who sell Girl Scout cookies for their children or collect money from co-workers for various causes.
Winnings from an office pool should be included in gross income of the winner. However, because pools are conducted informally, and not by the employer, the employer has no responsibility to withhold or report the winnings.
An employer may notice that a particular worker is displaying an unusual interest in gambling, which may be an indication of a gambling problem. As with all addictions that employees may face, it is helpful for employers to have resources on hand, such the phone number of the nearest Gamblers Anonymous.
Whatever you decide to do in your workplace about a Super Bowl office pool, remember that March Madness is just around the corner!