Gambling in the workplace - don't do It!

  • Published
  • By Maj. Chris Baker
  • 28th Bomb Wing Judge Advocate
It's that time of year again, sports fans! College basketball conference tournaments are in full swing and "March Madness," the NCAA men's basketball tournament, starts this week.

It's time to send out that e-mail to the squadron and let them know who the point of contact is to collect everyone's $5 entry fee, right? Wrong.

Like it or not, participating in a money-betting pool for NCAA basketball games in the workplace on duty time violates ethics laws and subjects employees to disciplinary action.

The Code of Federal Regulations, Title 5, Section 735.201, prohibits employees - including military members - from conducting or participating in any gambling activity, including the operation of a gambling device, a lottery or pool, a game for money or property, or selling or purchasing a numbers slip or ticket while on government owned or leased property, or while on government duty.

But wait a minute - just voluntarily putting a few dollars into the pool isn't gambling, right? Wrong.

Gambling is defined as the furnishing of consideration or betting something of value - usually money - in a game of a chance that offers a reward prize - money or otherwise.

Additionally, in South Dakota, NCAA bracket competitions may only be played legally for fun, that is without giving any consideration in exchange for a chance to win a prize.

Per the South Dakota State Attorney's Office, NCAA brackets are only lawful if played for fun or if a prize is offered without any consideration given - for example, no cost to play. Violations of South Dakota's gambling law constitutes a misdemeanor criminal offense.

Additionally, Air Force Instruction 36-2909, Professional and Unprofessional Relationships, states certain relationships can lead to actual or perceived favoritism or preferential treatment and should be avoided.

Examples of activities that may result in an adverse impact on morale, discipline and respect for authority include gambling with officer, enlisted or civilian subordinates. This AFI creates a duty to avoid such behavior, a duty which may subject the offender to prosecution for engaging in an unprofessional relationship.

Paragraph 5.1.1 of the same AFI specifically precludes officers from gambling with enlisted members. This behavior constitutes a violation of Article 134, Uniform Code of Military Justice, Fraternization.

Civilians should also be cautious, as AFI 36-703, Civilian Conduct and Responsibility, paragraph 3.6 addresses gambling. It specifically states gambling, which includes "office pools" and the joint purchase of lottery tickets by employees, is prohibited on federally owned property or while in a duty status regardless of location.

Well, even if we don't put money into a pool, we can still print off the brackets at work, right? Wrong.

It is unlawful for federal employees to use government computers, paper, printers or official duty time for unauthorized purposes, to include printing NCAA brackets, whether or not for gambling purposes.

Okay, but as long as we don't actually do the game in the workplace, we can still include subordinates in the pool, right? Wrong!

Gambling with subordinates erodes good order and discipline. If an employee takes money from a subordinate, that will erode the trust the subordinate has in the employee and will diminish the subordinate's willingness to follow the employee's orders.

The bottom line is that everyone can still enjoy the tournament and root for their favorite team, but keep the brackets just for fun.