Running Your Business

Football Pools in the Workplace: Yay or Nay?

  • Running an office football pool or fantasy football league can boost morale and be fun for employees

  • It's important to carefully evaluate the pros, cons and legality of holding a workplace pool

  • Make sure a fantasy football league doesn't interfere with productivity or deadlines

Posted by September 20, 2018

The thrill of the crowd. The smell of freshly grilled food. Your favorite team kicking off. Football season is becoming front and center once again—and office football pools are not far behind. Should your company coordinate a fantasy football league this year?

Running an office pool or fantasy league comes with a plethora of pros and cons. Some say a friendly pool encourages camaraderie and boosts morale among employees. Detractors claim it often slows productivity, excludes those who don’t participate and pulls employees’ attention away from their work.

Your office may already have a gambling policy in the workplace handbook that puts the kibosh on sports betting. If that’s the case, stick with your organization’s current guidelines and remind employees that betting is prohibited in the office. If you’ve decided to allow a friendly workplace football pool, there are some important things to keep in mind. Here’s what you should know.

It’s Important to Consider State Laws

Technically, office gambling falls into a legal gray area in which federal or state laws may prohibit certain types of recreational gambling. However, in about half of all states, office pools fall under the classification of social betting and are permitted. Check your state’s laws to be certain.

Authorities are not likely to crack down on your workplace fantasy football league (since they have neither the time nor resources to investigate) but your company could be risking liability if social betting is illegal in your state. The matter then becomes one for the executive team—or HR department—to approve or nix.

If You Do Get the Go-Ahead, Do It Right

About 2-3 percent of the US population has a gambling addiction, so it’s crucial that your coworkers are respectful of anyone who declines to participate in office football pools. Additionally, the boss should never be the one to run football pools, since having them take money back from employees for betting creates a strange dichotomy.

What’s more, the person who runs the pool should never take any money for themselves. That essentially makes them a “bookie” rather than simply Joe, the office’s football pool guy.

Tips for Setting Up a Football Pool or Fantasy League

If it’s decided that your organization can coordinate an office pool or fantasy football league, there are a number of things to consider when planning and executing the pool. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Pool participants must be present in the office. No one living out-of-state may participate. Additionally, payments should never be collected online, as this can turn everything into a “gambling operation” rather than a friendly workplace pool.
  • Keep the football pool light and friendly—and that includes the monetary aspect. Limits should be set around $5-$10 and the winner’s prize could be a gift card to a restaurant or local store. You can even ban the monetary part altogether and gift the winner a workplace perk like the best parking spot.
  • Remember to define clear rules! To do this, you should put them in writing. You can use one of many free online office pool sites for a hassle-free experience.
  • The person in charge needs to be responsible for collecting team picks and any monies well in advance of any deadlines.
  • Keep it casual. People can get heated over sports, so if serious arguing becomes a problem, take another look at whether fantasy football is right for your office.
  • Make sure the football pool is not interfering with work, deadlines or productivity. Don’t let all that office banter become centered solely on football or you risk excluding those not participating.
  • Endeavor to make it a fun and positive experience with the aim of fostering office friendships and promoting team-building.
  • If your office does run a pool, keep the stakes low and prohibit mean-spirited trash talking. Also consider organizing weekend game-watching parties so everyone can get together to socialize outside of the office.

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