Are NCAA Betting Pools Illegal?

Are NCAA Betting Pools Illegal?

Are NCAA Betting Pools Illegal?

Answers to your questions about the news.
March 20 2000 4:50 PM

Are NCAA Betting Pools Illegal?

The NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments are in their second week. In the days leading up to the events, law-abiding citizens around the country dug into their wallets to participate in betting pools. Are these pools illegal? Can you be prosecuted for e-mailing or faxing dozens of friends and inviting them to one?

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Most forms of gambling, including betting pools, are illegal in nearly all states. (The law often exempts certain licensed charitable organizations, such as churches that sponsor raffles; and of course some states allow casino gambling and sponsor lotteries.) In Vermont, however, residents can legally participate in NCAA tournament pools: Just last year, the state passed a law allowing people to participate in so-called noncommercial forms of betting, in which a winner (or a charity) receives all the money.

No matter where you live, however, it is illegal to make interstate telephone calls to participate in a betting pool, and probably illegal to use the Internet to do so. The 1961 federal Wire Act prohibits using phone lines to place or accept bets across state lines; each violation can carry a two-year prison term and a fine up to $5,000. Whether this law applies to the Internet is unclear, though the federal government has used it as justification for prosecuting some companies that run Web-based gambling sites. Last November, the Senate passed a bill that aims to ban Internet gambling more definitively; the bill has been referred to a House subcommittee for consideration.

For more on the legality of Internet gambling, see this Washington Post article. Click here to see an updated men's bracket.

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