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Bracket law: Pools illegal, but authorities not concerned

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 7:33 PM
Last updated Thursday, March 20, 2014 2:08 AM
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Over the next three weeks, thousands of people and hundreds of businesses across the Augusta area will participate in illegal gambling operations. Authorities already have said they will let it slide.


Talk about March Madness.

“There is no question that office pools associated with the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament are illegal,” said Jim Allen, an employment lawyer at the Augusta law firm Fuchler Hagler.

Georgia law clearly states that any person who “makes a bet upon the partial or final result of any game or contest” can face a misdemeanor charge of gambling.

Will the gambler face charges, though, is a different question.

According to Pregame.com, wagering on last year’s March Madness tournament exceeded $12 billion, more money than what was riding on the 2013 Super Bowl.

Of that, 50 million people contributed $3 billion to office pools, a gambling operation so widespread that authorities say they probably won’t take out charges against illicit rings.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a pool in every major business in Augusta,” said Sgt. Richard Elim, an investigator for the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office. “But as far as the sheriff’s office is concerned, we really do not get involved unless there is a commercial component to the pools, such as a bookie organizing it to make money.”

Commercial gambling is not uncommon in Augusta.

Last year, the owner of a Mike Padgett Highway store was arrested because of video gambling machines issuing cash payouts, and in 2005, five men were charged after $95,000 was seized from a commercial gambling operation in Richmond County.

William Sussman, an Augusta defense attorney, said such operations charge entry fees for people to gamble and are not comparable to office pools, which he described as small-time crimes.

“It’s participating in a game of chance for money,” Sussman said of office pools. “But as a practical matter, no one at the DA’s office is going to prosecute.”

District Attorney Ashley Wright did not return messages seeking comment, but Allen said the more pertinent question for employers is whether their business is a “gambling place,” a legal term in Georgia that refers to “any type of property in which one of the principal uses is making and settling bets.”

“If you did office pools every week, then you could end up finding yourself running a gambling place,” Allen said.

Allen said two to three clients call Fulcher Hagler each year asking whether their pools are illegal.

Most of them, he said, conduct pools only for the NCAA tournament and the Super Bowl. In such cases, he said, the company, its management and employees are not at risk; if a complaint were registered for weekly collections related to NFL matchups, however, that could present a different ending.

“If you had a complaint, you could imagine something rising to the level where the police would care, but it is very hard to imagine anyone betting that much money on the tournament,” Allen said.

South Carolina follows the same standards.

In fact, only offices in Nevada, where sports wagering is legal; Montana, where sports pools are legal so long as the house doesn’t take a cut; and Vermont and Connecticut, where small-time pools among friends and colleagues are allowed, are in the clear.

Pennsylvania is considering laws that would legalize small-scale sports gambling pools.

Elim said he is not aware of any deputies participating in pools, and Sussman’s practice includes only him and an assistant.

Allen said Fulcher Hagler is the first law firm he has worked for since graduating from the University of Georgia Law School in 1985 that does not have a pool for the tournament. That doesn’t mean he did not have a strategy to offer.

“I tend to like coaches more than teams,” he said. “I’ll bet on Krzyzewski, Pitino and Izzo all day long.”

Comments (7) Add comment
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Riverman1
120636
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Riverman1 03/20/14 - 05:54 am
2
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You'd have to lock up the

You'd have to lock up the entire Chronicle Sports writing department if this was enforced. Me too.

seenitB4
128543
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seenitB4 03/20/14 - 06:59 am
1
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Can't put all in jail

Just a few thousand ....put them in jail with the Obamacare insurance non filing folks.....yeh, that would make some jobs.

agustinian
863
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agustinian 03/20/14 - 07:15 am
1
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Change the Law!

Change the law. Mutual bets among friends shouldn't be criminalized. When so many ignore a law, the law itself must be wrong.

Abe Lincoln once said, "The best way to repeal a bad law is to enforce it!" Strictly enforce the law, and watch the public holler for repeal; and the legislature will follow suit.

dsterling9
2079
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dsterling9 03/20/14 - 08:34 am
0
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POOLS

Why should the authorities be concerned when the same happens even within their own organizations? Office pools have been going on for years and will always be there.

GiantsAllDay
14691
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GiantsAllDay 03/20/14 - 04:38 pm
0
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I say anyone caught betting

I say anyone caught betting on the NCAA tournament should be arrested and sentenced to 30 days in jail. The jail will be one that I build and Corrections Corporation of America (NYSE symbol CSX) will operate it. CCA will charge Richmond County $53.75/day/inmate, but CCA will kickback $8.75 to be split among the sheriff's department, judges and DA's office. After release from jail, they should be placed on probation for 6 months. The probation will be administered by Sentinel Services.

Bizkit
47851
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Bizkit 03/20/14 - 10:23 am
0
0
Why have a law if it isn't

Why have a law if it isn't upheld? Aren't we already dealing with that with the federal govt. Gosh every person in prison should be set free-cause of discriminatory practices and the fact the US has the highest incarceration rate of the world.

daphne3520
953
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daphne3520 03/20/14 - 10:38 am
0
0
Navy Gary
1615
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Navy Gary 03/20/14 - 10:38 am
1
0
Everything is a crime....

Everything is a crime anymore... The government has turned life in this free country into a literal minefield that can, at anytime, explode in any one of our faces. Our prisons are full because EVERYTHING is a crime. Too many cops, too many laws and WAY too much government for ANYONE to be free.

dichotomy
46810
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dichotomy 03/20/14 - 04:06 pm
1
0
Just another ambiguous,

Just another ambiguous, unenforceable law. No citizen should ever be put in the position of trying to determine whether they are violating a law "seriously" enough to be prosecuted. They know they are violating the law but there is some undetermined, ambiguous level of illegality that might cause them to be charged, based on the whims of some unpredictable, deal cutting prosecutor. As long as they don't cross that undetermined, ambiguous, unknown line, well....it's all just harmless fun....unless the cop don't like you or the DA don't like you. THEN you are, heaven forbid, violating the GAMBLING law.

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