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Originally published March 18, 2009 at 11:18 AM | Page modified March 18, 2009 at 11:25 AM

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State: Office betting pools for NCAA basketball tournament illegal.

As the NCAA "March Madness" basketball tournament gets underway, Washington gambling officials are pointing out that those ubiquitous betting pools based on NCAA bracket sheets are technically illegal.

As the NCAA "March Madness" basketball tournament gets underway, Washington gambling officials are pointing out that those ubiquitous betting pools based on NCAA bracket sheets are technically illegal.

But don't expect lawmen to come bust up your office pool. Gambling Commission spokeswoman Amy Hunter said she's not aware of any charges brought against people operating or participating in the pools, which typically do not involve a cut for the person operating the pool.

Hunter said the only legal sports-betting pools are 100-square grids, commonly used in football pools, with entrants paying $1 or less.

NCAA pools, which typically involve predicting the outcome of tournament basketball games, are not specifically discussed in the gambling statute, Hunter said. And because they are not listed as legal, they are illegal, Hunter said.

If an NCAA pool is operated by a person or agency that holds a gambling license, that license-holder could be fined or have its license suspended. NCAA pool participants who are not gambling licensees could be subject to criminal charges, Hunter said.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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