Is my $5 “contribution” to the office NCAA Bracket Pool a crime in Pennsylvania?
The office NCAA Bracket pool is one of the great American sports traditions. And there is nothing wrong with pouring over the matchups and filling out your bracket in hopes of besting your friends. But is there something wrong with the $5 you “contribute” to the pool when you turn in your bracket to the office pool manager in hopes of winning the pot? You may be surprised by the answer.
Section 5513 of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code (18 Pa.C.S.A. §5513) states that a person is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree if he: (1) intentionally or knowingly makes, assembles, sets up, maintains, sells, lends, leases, gives away, offers for sale, loans, lease or gift … any device to be used for gambling purposes, except playing cards; or (2) allows persons to collect and assemble for the purpose of unlawful gambling at any place under his control.
Section 5514 of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code (18 Pa.C.S.A. §5514) states that a person is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree if he: (1) engages in pool selling or bookmaking; or (2) occupies any place for the purpose of receiving, recording or registering bets or wagers, or of selling pools.
So in Pennsylvania it is technically a crime to take part in a pool when money is on the line, and it is technically a crime for your co-worker to run the pool and for your employer to allow the pool to take place in the office.
Now there is no reason to expect the police to raid the office and drag everyone down to central booking for processing. Just like the police looking the other way when someone is drinking alcohol covered in a brown bag in public, or the police not pulling over someone driving 6 miles over the speed limit, some crimes are small enough that law enforcement decides to not get involved. But it is important that you understand the law because you don’t want to push things too far that the police are forced to take notice, and ignorance of the law is never a defense to criminal charges.
It is also important to note that in Pennsylvania the law allows “eligible organizations” to obtain a license to run a pool for the purpose of raising money for public interest purposes, as long as all of the proceeds go to the public interest purpose. The law, which can be found at 10 P.S. §314, defines “eligible organizations” to include nonprofit charities, civic association and veterans organizations, and if you are concerned whether your organization fits within the law you are welcome to call our office to further discuss the matter.
There may also be a change to the law on the horizon that anyone concerned about their office pool will welcome. On February 13, 2013, State Senators Boscola, Tartaglione, Fontana, Browne and Solobay introduced Senate Bill 483. The bill proposes to amend Section 5514 of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code to state that any person who conducts or participates in a pool is not subject to prosecution as long as the following apply:
1. Not more than 100 people participate in the pool;
2. The maximum amount wagered in the pool by any individual is $20;
3. Other than the wager, no other money or thing of value is paid for participation in the pool;
4. All wagers collected for entry into the pool are paid as prizes to one or more participants in the pool or to clearly identified nonprofit organization;
5. No wagers or portions thereof are retained by the person or entity operating the pool and collecting wagers for participation.
6. The transaction of entering the pool is incidental to a bona fide social, professional or familial relationship.
It will be interesting to see whether this new legislation is enacted into law so that you can participate in your 2014 office NCAA Bracket pool without any worries.
This article is not legal advice and is provided for informational purposes only. Actual legal advice can only be provided after consultation by an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.