Office Gambling Is Unethical

Betting money on sports (or the Oscars, or anything else) falls in the latter category. But there are lots of stimulating things to talk about that just don’t belong at work.

But before you conclude that office pools have few legal consequences, consider this: Some employees, including those at the management level, have been fired (and in at least one case, arrested) for participating in these games, on the grounds the practice was either illegal or in violation of company policy.

. For example, we are legally required to file a federal tax return each year, so anyone who wishes to be a citizen in good standing (or at least not to become a member of the prison population) wisely chooses to pay his or her taxes. But they can violate corporate policies and the law. Whether either activity is your cup of tea is up to you; what isn’t up for grabs is the propriety of doing either at work for a significant amount of time.

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March Madness office pools involving cash are common, exciting, and potentially lucrative. Yes, roulette has terrible odds, but I like the quiet atmosphere and the fact that there is absolutely no skill involved.

Bottom line: The workplace shouldn’t be a joyless Orwellian nightmare.

The High Cost of Low Living

My argument that it is wrong to participate in office pools is not based on the ethics of gambling as such. “It’s harmless fun.” At the beginning of March Madness, you kick in a few dollars, then follow your team over the coming weeks and months. It’s quite another to have a shouting match about something that has nothing to do with one’s job.

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Because pool participants risk violating the law, the rules they have agreed to when they accepted their jobs, or both, the games are of questionable value. David Joffe of the law firm Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP.

Besides, winning a sporting event is extremely important to some of us, and arguments about sports can out of hand. Some of the best moments in our lives occur at work with close colleagues. In other words, in some states, office pools are illegal. Based on my research, however, I’ve discovered the legality of office pools in which employees bet cash on professional or college sports teams varies from state to state. It’s called a workplace for a reason: It’s the place where we’re supposed to work. “If the stakes are high, the result of the pool could create disharmony in the workplace, and the problems could escalate,” says employment law expert B. Yes, it is true that these laws are rarely enforced, and yes, it makes sense for police to investigate homicides, bank robberies, sexual assaults, and other serious crimes before they pursue rumors that employees in the local coffee shop are betting on the Louisville Cardinals over the Kansas Jayhawks.

3. Even where they are legal and not in violation of company protocol, however, they’re ethically unintelligent, and we shouldn’t participate in them.

Arguments about ethics are not entirely dependent on what the law, public policy, and corporate rules and regulations happen to be. “Companies are fighting like mad to bring people together, and office pools are a great way to stimulate watercooler conversations,” said John Challenger, chief executive of Challenger Gray & Christmas, to The Business Review in Albany, N.Y., in 2002. Most people lose.

When examining the propriety of office pools, it is thus important to look at the relevant law. It’s one thing to have a heated discussion about a project on which you and a colleague are working. The fact that the head of an organization sanctions a practice says little or nothing about whether the practice is justifiable or not. Some stakeholders may have religious objections to it. A third group may simply view gambling on the job as unseemly. After all, Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling of Enron thought it was perfectly fine to play with employee pension funds as if they were Monopoly money, but no one today is saying that their leadership roles made what they did O.K. “The CEO allows or encourages it.” This is, quite frankly, a cop-out. What’s the harm in that? Even if there happens to be no legal or policy issues at stake, the harm has to do with how stakeholders would view the business if on-the-job gambling activities were revealed. But this isn’t the main reason we shouldn’t place bets at work.

A slightly different version of this article was published originally on Bloomberg Businessweek Online.

The issue isn’t whether a particular activity is high- or lowbrow. For all of the problems in the legal system, it is hard to imagine that a civilized society could survive for long without laws and the serious consequences of failing to honor them.

The office, however, simply isn’t an appropriate place for gambling. Others might be concerned that employees will not give their full attention to their work. In the right social setting, gambling is a fun way to spend some time and, one hopes, not too much money (provided one does not have an addiction to gambling). If you’re on the job, it’s just as questionable to spend 45 minutes debating the Cartesian mind-body distinction as it is to play your favorite game app for that long. Whatever the objections are, they deserve to be taken seriously.

2. Things that interfere with doing our jobs well should be done before or after work. When David Frost asked former President Richard Nixon in 1977 if it is acceptable for a President to do something illegal, Nixon replied, “Well, when the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.” Nixon was mistaken, and so is any corporate leader who believes that “if I say it’s all right, then it must be all right.”

If even a small percentage of customers, board members, and shareholders is likely to be troubled by the practice of on-site betting, that alone is sufficient cause for concern. For any law or policy, we can and should ask: “Is it right? Is it fair? Is it just?”

This is not a call to civil disobedience, however. A few win. But it’s ethically intelligent to draw the line between fun that’s appropriate in the workplace and good times that are better had elsewhere. An action can be legal but wrong, or it can be illegal but ethically required. When I’m in Las Vegas — to give talks on, of all things, ethics — I usually make time for the roulette tables. The same goes for talking politics at work , having sex, drinking single malt whisky, surfing the Web for bargains, or yakking with friends on our smartphones.

But what about the folks who just place their bets and get back to work–what’s the problem there? Let’s look at some frequently marshaled defenses of office pools and why these claims are mistaken.

1. Before doing so, I must emphasize that I am not an attorney, and nothing in this blog should be considered legal advice. The law is an important first step in deciding what we should do and why we should do it. “Office pools build morale and camaraderie.” Next to the thrill of winning, this is the most popular justification for office pools. One would like to believe that laws, regulations, and policies are always based on what is right, but we know that too often they are shaped by special interests, outdated beliefs, or pure and simple prejudice

Negative Effects of Gambling

The National Council of Problem Gambling (NCPG) describes this type of gambling behavior as problem gambling.

Initially, one looks at gambling as a way to run away from life’s problems, or from stress, anger, and loneliness. To add to the so-called merry atmosphere, gamblers often smoke or drink while playing.

? Gambling is practiced as a means of recreation. The stress of risking huge amounts of money or the frustration after losing it can increase the tendency of abuse in gamblers. This proves to be detrimental to their social and family life. The effect is similar to that of having a drug or a drink, which is why gambling changes one’s mental state and mood.

Gambling refers to the betting of money on an event with an uncertain outcome, with the intent of winning additional wealth. Due to lost mental peace, they may ill-treat their spouse and children. According to the National Research Council, 10 to 17% of the children of problem gamblers have been abused and so have 25 to 50% of the partners of problems gamblers.

? Apart from absence at work and drop in efficiency, a common observation is that gamblers tend to steal money and engage in fraudulent behavior to recover from financial losses incurred when gambling, or to get more money to bet.

? Studies show that children with a sibling or parent addicted to gambling, are more likely to take to substance abuse.

? As gambling leads to increased criminal activities, in a way, gamblers add to the burden on prisons and the legal system.

? The costs of treating compulsive gamblers are huge. ? Additionally, rehabilitation and public assistance systems are taxed.

? Problem gamblers and addicts tend to abuse their family members. Their debt keeps building and it may reach an amount that exceeds their capacity to repay.

? Addiction to gambling has been linked with substance abuse. When they lose the money they had risked, they further gamble to recover the lost amount and it becomes a vicious circle even they can’t escape from.

? Gamblers often exhibit mood swings and a strangely secretive behavior. It can drag you into crime, gambling isn’t fun.

? Children of parents who are problem gamblers or gambling addicts tend to feel abandoned and angry, further increasing stress and leading to strained family relations.

? Substances of abuse are served at casinos and in pubs and clubs, thus increasing the likelihood of gamblers consuming them. The greed never ends and they keep betting more and more. Some go that way to forget the sorrow of losing big sums when gambling.

? According to the University of New York, in people with alcohol use disorders, the chances of developing an addiction to gambling are 23 times higher.

Compulsive gambling leads to bankruptcy

? Gambling has proven to be addictive. A recreational activity is supposed to be refreshing and relaxing, but something like gambling is contrary to the very purpose of recreation. The skill of a gambler lies in weighing the three parameters and making a decision about what amount should be staked and how much should be expected in return.

? Gambling at the cost of one’s job results in a decline in the quality of his professional life. Forget satisfaction or peace, it is not even refreshing in the real sense. It causes a decline in his/her work performance, thus hampering his career.

Mental and physical health problems, financial issues, and conflicts in the family are among the common negative effects of gambling. They tend to stay away from their near ones, resulting in distrust between them and their loved ones.

? Over time, the practice of gambling starts becoming a habit and begins to have damaging effects at psychological, physical, and social levels. Because of this, they land in worse situations and take the wrong decisions in life.

? The stress from gambling may lead to health issues like ulcers, stomach problems, muscle pains, headaches, and problems with sleep.

? People continue gambling with the greed of winning money. The addiction has negative effects on one’s physical and mental health and it proves to be detrimental to one’s social, personal, and professional life. Thus, gambling practices cause a huge financial burden on the families of the affected and on the society at large.

? According to a research by NCPG, 76 percent of problem gamblers are likely to have a major depressive disorder.

? People who fall prey to gambling tend to remain away from their families and waste money on other bad practices. In spite of the losses incurred, they continue betting. Some take to substance abuse to supplement the high they get from winning huge sums while gambling. The addiction leads people to continue with gambling irrespective of whether they earn or lose in the deal. The decision to gamble money is based on three parameters namely; how much to bet, the predictability of the event, and the conditions agreed upon, between the gamblers. Sports betting and arbitrage betting are the other types. Over time, it becomes a habit, and eventually an obsession that can’t be overcome. The two go hand in hand. Thus, gambling can have a grave economic impact which is difficult to reverse.

? A majority of those addicted to gambling have substance abuse disorders.

Games offered in casinos, table games like poker, Red Dog, and Blackjack, as also electronic games like Slot Machine and Video Poker are some of the common types of gambling. On giving a serious consideration to the negative effects of gambling, we realize that it is best avoided.

? According to a study by the George State University, 50% of the problem gamblers commit crime. Their mental state can even lead to suicidal tendencies.

? They start borrowing money and take secret loans. It soon becomes a habit that can’t be broken.

You could be at gunpoint or holding the gun. Six to eight million people in America are estimated to have a gambling problem.

? Similar to how an individual keeps consuming substances like drugs or alcohol to experience an altered mental state, he continues to gamble. They engage in gambling activities at the cost of their time with family and friends. Betting is a mentally taxing activity, and as one goes on risking more and more money, anxiety starts building.

? An Austrian study said that around 1 in 5 suicidal patients had a gambling problem.

? The addiction to gambling can leave one in bankruptcy. It only leads to a thoughtless expenditure of money and valuables.

? Gambling can lead to criminal activities. Rehabilitating the gambling addicts needs money and time, and the process is not very easy. Addiction to gambling, coupled with substance abuse can make the gamblers physically abusive towards their family. Card games, coin tossing, and dice-based games are some non-casino based forms of gambling. The addiction robs a gambler of all the productive time and leads to loss of efficiency at work. The addiction gets on to the gamblers to such an extent that they fail to think wisely before acting. In the following sections of this Buzzle article, we discuss the negative effects of gambling on the individual and society.. A study by the same university suggested that 73% of the individuals who are imprisoned are found to be problem gamblers.

Gambling = Thoughtless Expenditure + Waste of Time

? Research has shown that gambling can lead to harmful behavior in people

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