Wednesday, March 18, 2009

It's Awesome Baby!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Yes, March Madness is upon us. On Sunday, we all gathered in unison around the television and watched as the brackets were revealed. This week we’re researching the field of 65 (as of last night, 64) teams selected and filling out our brackets. Which number one seed will be the first to lose? Who will be this year’s Cinderella? Will Dick Vitale ever stop talking about Duke? While those are undoubtedly important questions to consider, there is perhaps another question that everyone, and especially those in the legal community, should ponder: are we breaking the law?

An article I came across online asks, “Will the FBI become the real bracket buster?” I think the short answer is no. As the article rightfully notes, most small pools won’t attract the attention of the legal authorities. The chance of you being arrested for illegally gambling after filling out your $5 bracket is as remote as Radford beating North Carolina.

But, for those of us in the legal community, it is important to recognize that we gamble more than money when we enter our bracket in a pool. The general rule is NCAA Tournament pools are illegal. The aforementioned article notes, however, that as with almost all general rules, there are exceptions. If the proceeds go to charity, then you’re safe. Additionally, some states (e.g. Vermont) permit such pools as long as the organizer doesn’t take a cut. Other states (e.g. Montana) differentiate between illegal public betting and legal private betting, meaning that office and law school pools (knew I should have gone to UMT Law!) may be safe.

It should also be noted that many of us in law school join pools with friends and family back home. Gambling may occur over the phone or through the internet, which could then constitute a federal crime. Who knew filling out a bracket for an NCAA Tournament pool could be such a serious offense? It feels so right. It feels so American. What’s next, criminalizing the consumption of apple pie?

The end result is that, sadly, gambling is gambling. But, you better believe I’ll still be filling out my bracket and ponying up my hard earned $5 for a chance at being crowned champion. By the way, it’s UConn over Duke, circa ’99. You heard it at The Blackbook first.


UPDATE (2:30 P.M.)
We have received an interesting reply from a former SCOTUS clerk. Our source informs us that Justice Rehnquist used to run his own NCAA Tournament pool, so take that for what it's worth.


  1. So what are we supposed to do? Is there any way to avoid the risk of imprisonment?>

  2. Just chill I guess ... keep it under wraps

  3. LOL @ dick vitale.


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