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Betting you don’t have a gambling policy

betting-gambling-policyWe have recently survived the Superbowl and the Oscars. Over the next few weeks you may also experience some March Madness amongst your employees. And we have all heard the story of a mega-jackpot win by a group of employees who, despite their good fortune, left their employer bereft of employees overnight.

Granted mega jackpot wins by groups of employees do not happen very often, but office lottery pools and other forms of gambling are quite common. Such activities have both positive and negative impact on the workplace to which employers should respond.

In 2007, HRinfodesk conducted an employer poll asking employers “Do you allow employees to have a group lottery pool in the workplace?” 61.7 percent replied that they did, 27.9 percent claimed to not interfere, while only 2.6 percent responded that they did not allow it, with the balance (7.8 percent) responding that they were not aware. That amounts to 89.6 percent of respondent employers either allowing or tolerating workplace lottery pools.

Gambling in the workplace goes beyond lottery pools. Business Insider reported in March 2014 that 50 million Americans were involved in a March Madness office pool. Vault.com which conducts annual office betting surveys reported in 2013 that 70 percent of respondents had participated in a betting pool at the workplace. The survey also asked employees how much of the workday was spent discussing, researching or making picks with 52 percent stating less than 30 minutes and 15 percent stating 30 minutes – one hour. Only 11 percent replied that their workplaces had policies regarding betting pools with 49 percent unsure. 55 percent of respondents believed office pools have a positive impact on the workplace, with only 8% believing the impact was negative. (http://www.vault.com/blog/workplace-issues/office-betting-survey-2013-the-results-are-in/). There are even a proliferation of online office pool management sites to assist office betting pools to set up and operate.

Even though Canadian employee interests may tend to hockey pools more than football or basketball, the statistics suggest that office lotteries and pools are prevalent and if employers are to allow such activities in the workplace, are well-advised to provide some rules and guidelines for their operation. Consider the following:

  • Workplace lottery and sports pools may increase employee morale and employee relationships; however such activities may also lead to conflict among employees with respect to participation or the rules governing the activity. No one wants to work in a place where employees are fighting or in extreme circumstances, suing each other.
  • Employers should be aware that many forms of gambling and betting are prohibited under the Criminal Code, and if illegal gambling takes place at the workplace, employers may also be charged.
  • Some employees run workplace sports and lottery pools for profit. Employers should ensure that this type of pool is prohibited.
  • Workplace pools and lotteries may take up valuable time and resources at the employer’s expense. Be sure to limit any such activities to “off-work” time and limit the employer resources which may be used for this purpose such as photocopies, computers, printers, bulletin boards, etc.
  • Most Canadian lottery and gaming corporations provide guidelines for group play. Employers should require any employee group lottery pool to follow the guidelines provided by its particular gaming corporation.
  • Employers should be sensitive to the possibility that some employees may object to gambling activities at the workplace due to religious beliefs or that workplace gambling may be a high risk activity to some employees who may have gambling addictions.
  • Employers may want to confirm that their Employee Assistance Programs have resources for problem gambling.

Employers should review policies such as Employee Assistance Program, Conduct and Behaviour, Discipline, and Computer, Email and Internet Use in light of the above considerations, which can be found in the Human Resources PolicyPro (HRPP) published by First Reference. Also, look for a “Workplace Gambling, Pools and Lotteries” policy in the HRPP in a future release.

Michele Glassford

President and Managing Editor at DRH and Lawyer at MacKinnon Law Associates
Michele Glassford, is a lawyer, researcher and policy analyst with a background in employment and labour law.In addition to a part-time law practice in Stoney Creek, Ontario, Michele has worked in the field of labour adjustment for the Health Sector Training and Adjustment Program and has been a Researcher for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Michele also holds the position of President and Managing Editor at D.R. Hancocks & Associates Inc., author of the Human Resources PolicyPros. Read more
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