Thinking about creating a March Madness® office pool this year? Well, think again! Such an office pool could cost you a lot more than the price of entry, exposing you and other participants to potential Federal ethics violations.
The NCAA basketball tournament is among the most popular sporting events for betting; the NCAA estimates that 1 in 10 Americans will fill out a bracket, and many do so as part of office pools. However, the ethics rules on misuse of position require you to use official time in an honest effort to perform your official duties, and also state that, as a Federal employee, you have a duty to use Government property only for authorized purposes. As Federal rules prohibit employees from gambling while on duty, or while on Government-owned or leased property, spending a few bucks on a friendly office pool could be a real problem.
Under DOI’s Limited Personal Use of Government Office Equipment policy (410 DM 2), use of Government office equipment for gambling or other prohibited activities is forbidden at all times.
Even if your participation in March Madness® is not considered gambling—i.e., simply picking winners to claim office bragging rights—limited personal use of Government property is only permitted when your activity occurs on non-duty time, does not interfere with official business (including video streaming on DOI IT networks), and only if the expense to the Government is negligible.
If you telework, you might be even more tempted to participate in March Madness® while you are on duty, but the misuse of position and gambling rules apply even while you are teleworking. The best course of action is to avoid any March Madness® activity while on duty (even teleworking!) and avoid using Government resources for these purposes.
If you have any questions concerning this guidance or any other ethics topic, please reach out to an ethics official. Contact information for the DOI’s Departmental Ethics Office and bureau ethics officials is available on our website.