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A small gamble

March Madness is here. The time where college basketball fanatics, casual fans, and the wholly disinterested gather in office break rooms to drop off their tournament prognostications and a couple of dollars for the pot.

But before you fill out that bracket, ask yourself: Am I willing to go to jail for this? Am I really about that life?

Maybe it’s not quite that serious, but as Lawyers Weekly has been reminded, it’s still illegal gambling.

“It’s clear that these violate South Carolina law,” said University of South Carolina School of Law professor Joe Seiner. “Any type of office pool that you would benefit monetarily from [is illegal].”

The only state more restrictive in its gambling laws, according to Seiner, is Utah.

South Carolina statutes don’t specifically mention bracketology, but they do expressly forbid folks playing cards, dice, any gambling machine, and basically anything else for gambling purposes. You may not play them at any tavern, inn, liquor store, or stable. Nor on any street, open wood, or race field.

I will not play them here or there.

I will not play them anywhere.

I will not gamble with tinker’s dam.

I will not gamble, Sam I am.

The consensus that Sidebar gathered is that, to quote one attorney he spoke with, “…this is one of those areas in which it’s technically illegal, but nobody cares.”

Seiner agrees with that assessment.
“Is SLED gonna bust down the door for the $20 gift certificate you win to the movies? Probably not,” he said. “But could they? Yes … from a legal standpoint.”

It’s unclear whether SLED cares, or kicks down office doors for basketball pools, because a SLED spokesman failed to immediately respond to Sidebar’s inquiry on the topic.

Sidebar also wondered whether the South Carolina Bar has had any issues as far as law offices running afoul of forbidden basketball brackets (Get it? A foul?), but emails to a couple of Ethics Advisory Committee members were not returned by press time.

So, it seems as though while a good number of us have unwittingly engaged in criminal activity while on the clock, it’s less like drug-running and more like, say, changing clothes inside a Myrtle Beach gas station without first getting the owner’s permission.

But please take that only as Sidebar’s opinion and not as legal advice. For all we know, the SLED spokesman may not have seen Lawyers Weekly’s email because he is out, at this very moment, busting down doors and breaking up bracket parties.

Heath Hamacher

 

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