NCAA Office Pools: Illegal Fun

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The madness is underway, and that not only means high drama on the court, but also in offices, where pools have become as much a rite of March as the action on the hardwood. But in Texas, save for the lottery, gambling is illegal, and that includes brackets in the boardroom.

"Gambling, in and of itself, is a Class C misdemeanor," said Bryan Police Assistant Chief Peter Scheets, "so the officer would actually write a citation. And the municipal judge would have to listen to the defenses to prosecution to make a determination, 'Is this a legitimate defense?'"

Within Chapter 47 of the state penal code are the three defenses to prosecution. First, the gambling must take place in a private place. An office qualifies as private.

Second, no one except the winners profited from the gambling. In other words, the organizer of a pool doesn't take a portion of the pot.

And third, besides the on-court advantage a team might have, there is an equal chance of winning and losing. Meeting these criteria doesn't make an office pool legal.

"It merely states if you are investigated and it does go before a judge, that can be your defense to prosecution," said Scheets, "but you've got to prove that as the defendant."

Of course, office pools are so readily accepted that they are rarely reported. Chief Scheets says he can't ever remember one coming to Bryan PD's attention that warranted a follow-up. But that doesn't mean if one is reported, law enforcement won't look into it.

"To the public, I'd tell you if you have any doubts, just don't get involved in it," said Scheets.

That's for the field of 65, or the NIT brackets that may be popping up around here.

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