I don't know anyone who has been thrown in jail or fined $5,000 for participating in a March Madness pool, but, whew, effective January 1st, at least we don't have to worry about this prospect! Thanks to California Assembly Bill 58 "Sports Betting Pools" law signed last year, the your prospects for going to jail have been reduced even further!
Well, that's not exactly the case. If you run or participate in a sports betting pool that has at least $2,500 at stake and/or is run...gulp...online, you continue to face a possible misdemeanor or even felony charges.
But even if you participate in a little $5 sports pool and fill out your selections on those printed bracket sheets, you still face the prospect of a $250 infraction.
Now I'm wondering if there are any loopholes. If everyone wagers, say, a six-pack of beer, does that constitute a wager. Hmm, probably so. Who knows. And I wonder how they are defining "online" - does that include email. I'd assume so but I'm not quite sure.
So as we enter the official sports betting pool season as March Madness approaches, let us all rejoice in the fact that the prospect of sitting in the slammer for our sins has been significantly diminished.
Here is the actual law, written in standard incomprehensible lack of plain, simple English:
SECTION 1. Section 336.9 is added to the Penal Code, to read:
336.9. (a) Notwithstanding Section 337a*, and except as provided in subdivision (b) any person who, not for gain, hire, or reward other than that at stake under conditions available to every participant, knowingly participates in any of the ways specified in paragraph (2), (3), (4), (5), or (6) of subdivision (a) of Section 337a in any bet, bets, wager, wagers, or betting pool or pools made between the person and any other person or group of persons who are not acting for gain, hire, or reward, other than that at stake under conditions available to every participant, upon the result of any lawful trial, or purported trial, or contest, or purported contest, of skill, speed, or power of endurance of person or animal, or between persons, animals, or mechanical apparatus, is guilty of an infraction, punishable by a fine not to exceed two hundred fifty dollars ($250). (b) Subdivision (a) does not apply to either of the following situations: (1) Any bet, bets, wager, wagers, or betting pool or pools made online. (2) Betting pools with more than twenty-five hundred dollars ($2,500) at stake.
* I won't bore you with that here, but you can look at it HERE if you are so inclined.