But be careful. Have fun, but don't take too many liberties. It seems as though each year, the police do try to make an example out of some poor participant who got a little too greedy. And although your clean record with the police isn't necessarily in jeopardy, your job might be. We've all heard stories about six-figure entry fees at some Wall Street brokerage houses — in 1991, three traders from Smith Barney and Paine Webber were terminated (that's fired, not killed) after betting $300,000 on the tournament.
Most companies tend to look the other way as long as the pools don't disrupt their employees' work habits. "We do allow it," said a spokesman from Boeing, "as long as it doesn't interfere with their ability to be productive." Many feel that pools actually foster company camaraderie by providing a common interest and topic of discussion for employees that ordinarily wouldn't interact.
Some companies, however, take a tougher approach. In December 1997, Fidelity fired nine employees and disciplined 16 others for betting and participating in sports pools. After conducting routine e-mail and Internet checks, management discovered the employees were receiving betting tips. "Gambling on company time is a violation of company policy and the employees were fully aware of that," explained company spokesman Ann Crowley.