Legal Vs. Illegal Super Bowl Betting, Including Office Pools

Written By J.R. Duren on February 8, 2022
legal super bowl betting

They all get lumped together in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. But not every bet you discuss in the office or during your Zoom meetings is legal Super Bowl betting.

As such, TheLines will help you know which types of betting are outlawed, and if they are illegal, which legal options you can place bets on in the big game.

Sports Betting Is Legal in 26 States and Washington DC

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Online vs. In-Person Legal Super Bowl Betting

There’s a much better chance that your state allows sports betting than it does office pools. More than half the states in the country allow sports betting. Some states only allow sports betting on tribal land, while others provide sports betting at retail locations and through mobile and online platforms.

As bettors prepare for Super Bowl wagers, sportsbooks will likely offer a variety of promotions leading up to the game. For example, in New York, DraftKings Sportsbook, Caesars Sportsbook, BetMGM, and FanDuel Sportsbook are each offering fantastic sign-up bonuses to new users.

Super Bowl LVI Odds

Betting in California: Illegal

Despite the game being played in Los Angeles, sports betting is not legal in California. If your home state allows sports betting and you travel to California (or any other non-mobile sports betting state), you cannot bet on those apps while physically located there.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Whittier College gambling law expert and professor emeritus I. Nelson Rose reminded readers that though the chances of enforcement are low, you’re breaking the law when you use a friend of a friend’s bookie.

“California state law is probably the broadest in the country when it comes to restricting gambling,” Rose said. “It makes it a crime—a misdemeanor—to accept, record or even make a bet on a sports event. Obviously, nobody ever gets arrested for making bets on sports events. But it’s clearly against the law.”

However, you do have access to daily fantasy sports from operators such as FanDuel and DraftKings. And if you’re hungry for some prop action, Monkey Knight Fight, the official DFS partner of the Los Angeles Kings and L.A. Galaxy, offers prop-style wagers.

If you are in a state where online sports betting is illegal, you’ll see some legal DFS options in the banner above. 

Office Pools: Illegal in Most States

Office pools are legal in a small group of states. The states that do allow pools often have specific rules for what’s allowed and what’s not.

Washington is a great example of the nuances of pool-betting laws. According to state law, an office pool is legal if it’s a square game made the following way:

  • It is built for one sporting event.
  • It has 100 equally divided squares
  • The squares are randomly assigned
  • The squares cost no more than $1 each (yes, seriously)

Connecticut is a little looser with its rules. You can run or participate in an office pool as long as:

  • All of the money contributed to the pool is distributed to the winner(s)
  • The organizer cannot take a cut of the money for organizing the pool or squares
  • Any establishment that sells alcohol cannot run a betting pool of any kind

Before running an office pool for the showdown between the Rams and Bengals, check your state laws. Also, ask your HR department if office pools are allowed; some companies may have strict no-gambling policies.

Office Pools That Accept Online Payments: Likely Illegal

A 2019 article from the National Review did a fascinating examination of the legality of office pools in the context of the Interstate Wire Act. Basically, the law prohibits transferring money across state lines or accepting online payments for gambling.

In that context, accepting PayPal and Venmo payments for your office pool “seemingly” breaks federal law, the article argued. PayPal has also been cracking down, even seizing funds, of those that use their service for private pools and fantasy leagues, according a a lawsuit filed against PayPal.

Additionally, if your company is based in New York but you have employees coming in from New Jersey and Connecticut, it is “seemingly” illegal to accept money from them for a Super Bowl squares competition, the article noted.

Enforcement, however, is a separate issue. You likely won’t get arrested for running or participating in an office. In a 2010 interview with NPR, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said law enforcement is likely to bust an office pool only when it’s tied to organized crime.

“In the area of vice, we are so busy I’d have to have my head examined if I were chasing around office pools,” Dart told NPR.

J.R. Duren Avatar
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J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren has written for a wide variety of publications, both online and print, including Snooth, the Villages Daily Sun, Bespoke Post, Our Amazing Norway, and Barcelona Metropolitan. He has thrice been recognized as a winner of the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism contest.

View all posts by J.R. Duren