Reminder on Federal Workplace Gambling Prohibitions

Last edited 03/12/2021

Every March, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) holds its Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, known as March Madness®.  The NCAA basketball tournament is among the most popular sporting events to bet on; the NCAA estimates 1 in 10 Americans will fill out a bracket, and many do so as part of office pools.  

However, federal rules prohibit employees from gambling while on duty, or while on government-owned or leased property, even if it’s just spending a few bucks on a friendly office bracket. These restrictions apply not only to federal employees, but also to members of the public at large, contractors, vendors and exhibitors when on GSA-controlled property. 5 C.F.R. § 735.201; 41 C.F.R. § 102-74.395. State laws may also prohibit gambling activities.

Furthermore, with so many DOI employees teleworking from home, under DOI’s Limited Personal Use of Government Office Equipment policy (410 DM 2), use of Government office equipment for illegal activities such as gambling is prohibited at all times.  

Even if your participation in March Madness® is not considered gambling (let’s say you are simply picking winners to claim bragging rights), limited personal use of Government property is only permitted where the activity occurs on non-duty time, does not interfere with official business (including video streaming on IT networks), and the expense to the Government is negligible.

Generally, gambling requires three elements:

  • A game of chance;
  • Payment of consideration for the opportunity to play the game; and
  • An offering of a prize (even if donated to charity).

A “game of chance” includes, but is not limited to, a raffle, lottery, sports pool, game of cards, the selling or purchasing of a numbers slip or ticket, or any game for money or property. “Consideration” includes a participation fee, a wager of money, and something of value in return for the possibility of winning a reward or prize. A “prize” would include a monetary award, or a tangible or intangible item. Examples include meals, drinks, gift certificates, tickets to events, or cash.

Violations of these prohibitions may be cause for disciplinary action, in addition to any other penalties prescribed by law.

Therefore, the best course of conduct is to avoid any March Madness® office pools or workplace activity that involves gambling on the outcome of a game or the misuse of Government resources. 

If you have any questions or concerns about these topics, please contact your Bureau or Office Deputy Ethics Counselor or the Departmental Ethics Office at

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