Ethics of March Madness

  • Published
  • By Capt. Aaron Wilson
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Legal Office
Who is going drain the three at the buzzer? Which team will be Cinderella this year? How many times will Dick Vitale shout "Baby" during any given telecast? Like many of you, I love March - not so much for the continued snow storms but for the NCAA Basketball Championships. Like many of you I will fill out a bracket and remain glued to the television to see if my predictions are better than those of my friends. With conference tournaments wrapping up and selection Sunday just around the corner, there are some important sections of the Joint Ethics Regulation for you to remember.

Section 2-302 of the JER prohibits DoD employees from gambling on Federal property or while present for duty (with certain exceptions like Club Fairchild bingo). Additionally, military members may not gamble with subordinates. What exactly counts as gambling? If a game has these three elements it is gambling: 1) the furnishing of consideration (betting money; paying entry fee); 2) in a game of chance; 3) that offers a reward or prize. Thus, paying money to enter a tournament pool that has a prize is gambling. Yes, there is some skill involved in choosing the right teams but the General Counsel's Office has determined things like bracket challenges and fantasy sports are games of chance.

So what is permissible under the JER? Your office can have a bracket challenge for bragging rights. You can enter the official bracket challenge being promoted by Force Support. Off-base you may participate in any tournament pool permissible under local law. So with these provisions in mind, go fill out a bracket and have some ethical fun this March.