Your $10 March Madness® office pool could cost you a lot more than the price of entry thereby exposing you and other participants to potential Federal ethics violations that may be cause for disciplinary action, in addition to any other penalties prescribed by law.
The NCAA basketball tournament is among the most popular sporting events to bet on; the NCAA estimates that 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 is a matter of simply spending a few bucks on a friendly office pool. These restrictions apply not only to Federal employees, but also to members of the public at large, contractors, vendors, and exhibitors when on General Services Administration-controlled property.
Furthermore, with so many Department of the Interior (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—i.e., simply picking winners to claim office 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.
Therefore, the best course of action is to avoid any March Madness® office pools or workplace activity while on duty that involves gambling on the outcome of a game or the misuse of Government resources.
If you have any questions concerning this guidance or any other ethics topic, please reach out to an ethics counselor. Contact information for the DOI’s Departmental Ethics Office and bureau ethics counselors is available at https://www.doi.gov/ethics/bureau-office-contacts.