Are Football Pools a Good Idea in the Office? Keeping Your Pool Legit


September 29, 2020

There are some things you can count on in the fall like falling leaves, pumpkin spice lattes, and 15% of Americans, betting on football. As a business leader, you know your employees are forming football pools and fantasy football leagues in the office. At best, these are a great way of bonding and at worst, someone loses $20 in a bet. But are football pools a good idea at your company?

Legally, Are Football Pools a Good Idea in the Office? Yes, if You Think Through the Issues.

Are football pools safe and legal? The answer is generally yes, but how a pool should be run will depend on the state laws where you’re located. Especially if you’re gambling for a cash pot, you’ll need to do a quick internet search for your state’s regulations on the matter. If you’ve got employees who are betting from outside the state you’re in, that complicates matters even further, and wreck your ability to stay in compliance in all states. Clearly, there’s nothing simple about running a simple Super Bowl pool. Here’s some of the issues you’ll need to think through.

Consider Ditching the Cash Bets and Prizes

Is the risk of cash betting worth it? In our estimation, the answer is no. While pools are legal, juggling the state-to-state differences in rules makes it tricky. And with some employees following sports more closely than others, it can feel to your non-sports addicted employees like a form of unfair compensation. Cash also has a way of turning up the intensity level of something that should be a light, fun activity among colleagues.

Instead, we recommend different prizes. A large, crazy trophy that gets passed from winner to winner, year to year. Or perhaps, a package of corporate perks, like gift certificates to the company cafeteria, a special parking spot for the year, company wearables, or the like.

Integris’s VP of Experience, Jeff Howard, explains: “It’s my opinion that you can avoid the risks and challenges that come with betting cash by finding alternative awards.  For the last six years we have had excellent participation and a fun time each year with no cash betting. We simply purchased a trophy and each year we engrave that years winner’s name on the trophy.  It provides for years of bragging long after any money won would have been forgotten.”

Involve All Your Employees—Even Those Who Don’t Like Football

The trick with having a friendly, engaging employee football pool is to find ways to make it fun for everyone. Maybe you could have special snacks for employees on Friday afternoons during the playoff season, and everyone can discuss their bets. If an employee doesn’t feel like they don’t know enough about sports to bet, no worries. Put everyone’s name into an additional, randomized drawing of a gift card or other perk. Want to make everyone feel like they benefit? Hand the winner a crazy, big trophy they can proudly display all year, and let them pick out the menu for a company lunch for the whole office. The winner can pick out favorite foods to be delivered, and you can make it a fun time for everyone.

Check Your Employee Handbook Policies

Even if your state legally allows football pools, look at your employee handbook. If your employee policies explicitly forbid gambling in the office, you’ll want to make sure your football pool falls in line. Or, conversely, you may want to make the exception for the event clear in the handbook. Either way, keep your communication clear.

Keep it Friendly

Keep the competition friendly and light by banning any mean-spirited trash talk; remember that sports teams’ losses can be a true sore spot for some people.

Make Two People Accountable for Organization and Tracking

By placing two people in charge, you double your chances of having team picks submitted before the deadline, thus eliminating any hard feelings and keeping the pool on track. Additionally, having two people accountable virtually eliminates any perceived fiddling with the results and rewards.

Keep the Betting to Employees Only

This is a friendly in-house activity, and an office football pool should remain among your employees only. No outsiders, such as third-party vendors, clients, or customers should be allowed to participate.

Clearly Define the Rules

Deadlines, spreads, and all the other rules of the pool need to be clearly defined. You can choose to organize the competition with an online office pool manager. Make sure to circulate the rules to everyone playing.

Keep it Under Control

If you find your office football pool is taking away from productivity, you will need to intervene. Remember that non-playing employees will feel excluded if the rest of the office is walking around carrying spreadsheets while they continue to work.

Are Football Pools a Good Idea in the Office? Hackers May Think So

You may not think your little football pool will catch the attention of hackers, but the increase of online betting has raised their curiosity. While their efforts are currently largely focused on bigger online gaming venues, urge your employees to use caution with your office football pools:

  • Keep it generic: If using an online pool manager, never provide any sensitive personal information
  • Keep it secure: Urge employees not to click any link asking for any personal information, even if it appears to be coming from the organizer of the pool or the online pool management app itself. We recommend sending out reminders of this whenever you send out pool updates.
  • Keep it legit: Make sure your online pool organizer is a reputable one. Check ratings and look for apps from familiar developers. Be aware of phony apps, and steer clear of any that seem shady.
  • Keep it away from work: Never let your employees use their work-related email addresses, work stations, or work-issued mobile devices to access an online pool manager.

You’ll note that many of these practices are identical to Integris’s email security tips and focus mainly on employee awareness. Remember that your employees are your biggest defense when it comes to your network security; this may be the perfect time to engage them in a cybersecurity awareness class. Or, if you’re worried about keeping productivity high in an era of distributed workforces, check out our latest advice on measuring the productivity of your cloud-based team.

Make Your Super Bowl Pool a Safe Bet

Integris may not know the next Super Bowl winner, but we do know IT. Let us help your business stay on the defensive and reach your goal for the ultimate touchdown: network security and efficiency. Contact us for more information.

Touchdown dance is optional.

We're Integris. We're always working to empower people through technology.

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