Master the March Madness

One million dollars every year for the rest of your life. Would be nice, right?! According to Warren Buffet, he’s happy to pay out if one of his employees correctly picks all the teams to make it to the NCAA’s Sweet 16. Double your winnings if Creighton or Nebraska wins the tournament! Odds of the perfect bracket are only 1 in 9.2 quintillion (yes, that’s a real number!). Totally doable. Regardless of the odds, I think it’s safe to say that Berkshire Hathaway supports employee participation in March Madness.

Question is, should you?

I’ll quote the most frustrating answer given by every attorney out there, “It depends.” Let’s explore some of the most common questions so you can make an informed decision on what is best for your company.

Are pay-to-play March Madness pools legal?

Well, let’s be honest. No – it’s not legal. At least in most states, it’s technically prohibited. On the federal level there are at least three laws that are violated when you enter an online pool. Many states also have laws against it, although some (such as PA) have carved out statutory exceptions under which it is permissible.

Will your manager be seen escaping out the back door on the next episode of Cops? Extremely unlikely. It’s a pretty common consensus that law enforcement priorities are better spent elsewhere and that these laws are rarely upheld due to the widespread popularity.

Lay it out for me…what are the pros and cons?


  • Building camaraderie among your team. A little bit of healthy competition can go a long way to building better relationships among your employees.
  • Strengthen client relationships. Use this opportunity to connect with customers on a different level. Invite them in to watch some games, strike up new conversations and see if it doesn’t lead to more closed deals. People do business with people they like.
  • Nurture morale and enhance your corporate culture. Every manager dreams of employees who are excited to come to work. An enjoyable corporate culture can lead to higher productivity and more loyalty among your employees.

“March 2013 poll by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that the NCAA tournament was among the top events for which organizations reported having office pools in 2013 (36 percent). More than two-thirds (70 percent) of HR professionals said that such pools have a positive impact on relationship building, 64 percent said they promote team building, and 54 percent said they increase employee engagement.”


  • Wasted time. A study by OfficeTeam reports that a 25.5 minutes are spent on sport-related activities during the workday for a total of 6 hours per employee during the playoffs.
  • Lost wages. According to a March Madness survey by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, American companies can lose as much as $134 million in lost wages over the first two days of the tournament.
  • Employees who do not participate may view March Madness accommodations as unfair or prejudicial.

Employees are already abuzz, how do I control the madness?

If you allow participation in March Madness, there are a few tips we can give that will help your employees stay closer to the legal side of things. By establishing a workplace policy or organizing a company sponsored pool, you can establish some parameters and keep your employees productive. Consider the following tips:

  • Do not allow anyone under the age of 18 to participate.
  • Keep it on paper – not online.
  • Keep bets low, under $20 per person.
  • Make sure what comes in goes back out. No one should be keeping a cut for managing the pool.
  • Consider allowing participation for free and providing prizes for the finalists.
  • Set expectations. Remind employees of any existing policies about dress codes, personal use of company property (computers, phones, internet), and employee breaks as well as PTO.
  • Consider adding a television to the break room. Set aside time for employees to participate if they want, but be sure to define “acceptable use” of the space and establish time limits so productive work hours don’t go down the drain.
  • Consider relaxing your dress code to allow employees to support their team or decorate their work area with sports memorabilia. 

No matter what you decide, March Madness is upon us. Plan ahead, communication with your employees, and if you have any questions or need assistance with your policies, reach out to Exodus HR for assistance.