In a March Madness Pool? You're Breaking the Law
State Sen. Lisa Boscola aims to decriminalize small sports betting pools, touts legislation she introduced a year ago.
Have you filled out your NCAA bracket for the office pool? Does that pool have an entry fee with a cash prize for the winner?
If you answered "yes" to both of those questions, you and your bracket-filling cohorts are breaking Pennsylvania law.
But Bethlehem-based state Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-18, is hoping to decriminalize a “harmless” March Madness tradition in the Keystone State with a bill she introduced a year ago.
Boscola reiterated her position on small sports betting pools on the Senate floor in Harrisburg on Wednesday, according to a news release from her office.
“These pools are available in nearly every social club or bar you go to—and copying machines are churning out NCAA brackets from Easton to Erie,” Boscola said.
“With most Pennsylvanians mistakenly believing these pools are legal or ignoring the law for being outdated, the time has come quit viewing thousands and thousands of our citizens as lawbreakers.”
An article that appeared a year ago in Bloomberg Businessweek said: “March Madness may be America’s largest annual ritual of collective lawbreaking.” It cited a 2009 Microsoft survey, which estimated that 58 million Americans fill out brackets, and Las Vegas oddsmaker pregame.com, which says that $12 billion is wagered on the tournament every year.
Under Boscola’s legislation (Senate Bill 483), betting pools would be legal if:
- the entry amount is $20 or less;
- there are no more than 100 participants;
- There is an established social, professional or familial relationship between contestants; and
- all pool proceeds must be awarded to the contestants or donated to a bona-fide charitable organization.
Vermont and Montana have adopted similar legislation, Boscola said. She said her legislation “legitimizes an activity that most people already rightly assume is legitimate.”
Incidentally, Boscola said she likes the regional favorite Villanova Wildcats as this year’s tournament sleeper.
Bethlehem native and Liberty High School graduate Darrun Hilliard, a sophomore, is a starting forward for the Wildcats, who will play North Carolina in the second round of the tournament Friday night.