by Deborah Z Mark


It’s that time of year again.  The days are getting longer, temperatures are getting warmer, and here in Arizona, the delightful fragrance of orange blossoms fills the air.

It’s also time for NCAA basketball tournaments.

March Madness has begun!

You may be participating in a betting pool with family, friends, or coworkers.  You’ve chosen your brackets meticulously, using the most advanced technology and best educated guesses known to mankind.  This year you’re gonna win!  It’s a slam dunk!

But is jumping into this particular pool legal?  Or could it be considered bracketeering?

Keep it Legal

According to the Arizona Department of Gaming, gambling is illegal in Arizona when any of the following conditions exist:

  • The host of the game requires that players pay fees in order to participate
  • The host requires a cover charge, donation, or “voluntary” donation from players who want to participate in the game
  • The host takes a percentage of the money the players wager or win
  • The host requires a minimum purchase (food, drink, or any other item)
  • The host provides equipment (chairs, chips, tables, cards, or other items) and charges players rental fees, equipment fees, user fees or other fees in order to participate

Office pools are illegal if the host or organizer receives a fee for services provided or if all the money wagered doesn’t go back to the participants.  If the organizer takes a percentage of the money bet or won, the office pool is illegal. But under Arizona law (ARS 13-3302), all gambling is unlawful and subject to criminal penalties unless it falls within one of the six statutory exceptions to the state’s general prohibition on gambling:

  1. Gambling at state, county, or district fairs that satisfies certain restrictions
  2. Raffles conducted by certain qualifying non-profit organizations
  3. Raffles conducted by certain state, county, or local historical societies
  4. “Regulated gambling” as defined in ARS 13-3301
  5. “Amusement gambling” as defined in ARS 13-3301
  6. “Social gambling” as defined in ARS 13-3301


The feds will cry foul if you make interstate phone calls to participate in a betting pool.  The federal Wire Act of 1961 prohibits using phone lines to place or accept bets across state lines.  Violators are subject to a 2 year prison sentence and a fine up to $5,000.  (And you probably won’t be given any slack if you argue that your device is wireless and doesn’t even use phone lines.)

On to the Final Four.


The above is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.  For more information regarding gambling in Arizona, log on to:, or contact your attorney.