Fall means football season across the United States, and with 59.3 million people playing fantasy sports this year in the U.S. and Canada, almost anyone can participate. In spite of the popularity of playing fantasy sports — which first started with golf in the 1950s — there are some legal issues involved. Depending on which state players live in and whether they’re playing for money, fantasy football could be considered gambling. Business owners must weigh the risk of allowing employees to “gamble” on company time versus the benefits of increased employee engagement.
According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, 66 percent of fantasy players are male and 34 percent women. Sixty-six percent also have a college degree or higher, and 67 percent are employed full-time. Even if they’re just doing it on their lunch break, employers can bet that at least some of their employers are playing fantasy football at work.
There are many employer-sponsored fantasy leagues in existence, proof that some business owners see the play as good for business. “Those employees participating in a fantasy football league with a coworker were significantly more engaged at work than those who did not play fantasy football at all,” notes a 2015 article in The Business Journals. The “fantasy” group was also found to have higher levels of teamwork and feeling valued at work.
Fantasy football leagues are an activity that employees can have in common and discuss around the water cooler. Much like collaborating on a community service project or sharing a team-building experience, playing fantasy football can bring employees together.
That doesn’t mean employers should jump into sponsoring a league though. As with any employee policy, best practices and limits should be considered, not to mention legal implications. The legal issue can also become more complicated for companies with offices in different states, so researching gambling laws and exceptions for “social gambling” is advised.
Here are five best practices to consider when it comes to fantasy football in your workplace:
- Create a policy that details what type of gambling is allowed in the office, as well as when it’s allowed and where (on a company computer, email, etc.)
- Don’t charge an entry fee to help with any legal issues and level the playing field for everyone.
- Hand out a prize or trophy to the winner and develop other opportunities for bonding in relation to the game.
- Implement a way for employees to safely make complaints; some may feel left out by choosing not to play.
- Be prepared to enforce any policies you set related to gambling and be consistent.
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