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Gambling plays big in daily workplace

By Laura Morsch

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Fantasy baseball? Sign me up. March Madness? Here's $20 for a bracket. The World Series? I've got $10 on the Cubs. Who will win "The Amazing Race?" Huh?!?!

According to, the FBI estimates that more than $2.5 billion is gambled each year on the NCAA tournament, but only $80 million is bet legally through sports books in Nevada. The rest of it is gambled illegally -- a lot of by regular folks glued to ESPN's live game updates on their office computers.

Informal gambling pools are as standard as coffee breaks in many workplaces. More than one-third of U.S. workers report they have entered a Super Bowl office pool in the past, according to a recent survey of more than 2,500 workers by, the nation's largest online job network.

Men were more likely to take part with 45 percent placing bets, compared with 31 percent of women.

Though some noble workers join the pools to foster camaraderie with their co-workers, most are drawn in by the relatively low buy-in ($5 to $20 on average) and high winnings potential.

According to the CareerBuilder survey, while 39 percent of workers expected the payout for this year's Super Bowl winner at their office to be $100 or less, 61 percent expected to potentially win more than $100 and 15 percent anticipated the prize would exceed $500.

Luckily, despite the prospect of winning the big bucks, workers are still, well, working. A 1999 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that of the HR professionals who reported knowing their employees participate in office betting, more than half (56 percent) said the gambling has had no effect on worker productivity.

Not your typical office pool

Some workplaces have moved past sporting events and guessing their pregnant co-workers' delivery dates. According to CareerBuilder, some of the most unusual office pools include:

  • Who will be fired first
  • How many cigarettes the boss will smoke in a meeting
  • Who can knock over a cup of coffee with a golf putt from 45 feet away
  • How often a co-worker will show up late
  • How many times a co-worker will cry in a given period of time
  • Annual bet on which senior executives will still be with the company at year-end
  • Who will be awarded a promotion
  • A patient's blood-alcohol level
  • Cockroach race
  • Who will become pregnant first
  • Who will lose the most weight
  • Research before you bet

    If you choose to enter office pools, be sure to use plenty of common sense -- and not just when picking your team. Technically, many of these office gambling activities are illegal, and though usually you won't get arrested, you could wind up fired.

    Of the 9,764 human resource (HR) professionals responding to an informal SHRM online survey in January 2002:

  • 30 percent said their organizations don't allow betting pools.
  • 14 percent said their organization does allow them.
  • 57 percent said they don't worry about whether betting pools are happening at their workplace.
  • "While placing a friendly wager at the office may seem harmless, workers should be mindful of company policies to avoid possible reprimands," said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources for "The safe bet is to check with your manager first."

    © Copyright 2005. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority
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