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Office betting pools: Nice diversion or super problem?

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in HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Issue: This is prime office-pool season: the Super Bowl, followed by the NCAA basketball tournament.

Risk: Betting pools can sap productivity, but the real danger comes from compulsive gamblers on your payroll.

Action: Don't crack down on minor pools, but write a policy on habitual gambling at work.

A workplace betting pool is like that five-mile-per-hour buffer above the speed limit: while it's technically illegal, it rarely draws the attention of law-enforcement entities.

Your organization probably won't face legal trouble for tolerating small betting pools among employees, but it could face other problems, including declining productivity and potential theft from a desperate, compulsive gambler.

How do most businesses handle betting pools? They look the other way.

In fact, 57 percent of HR professionals said they don't worry about whether betting pools occur in their workplaces, according to a 2002 Society for Human Resource Management survey. Thirty percent of respondents said their organizations don't allow betting pools, while 14 percent said their organizations do allow them.

Advice: You'll do more harm than good by cracking down on minor pools in the workplace. The bigger threat comes from compulsive gamblers who sap the organization's time. Studies say 3 percent to 5 percent of people are compulsive gamblers.

Add a section to your ethics policy that lays out consequences for habitual gambling at work.

Good resources: National Council on Problem Gambling, www.ncpgambling.org or Gamblers Anonymous, www.gamblersanonymous.org.

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