Good news if your NCAA Basketball Tournament pool is in California; no longer must you lurk in the shadows as you make your picks, hiding your brackets from the cops during routine traffic stops and pretending that your sudden interest in Drake is due to their "top-notch pharmacy and health sciences department." The state that has given us the medical marijuana law is now set to decriminalize the office pool.
"Folks making a friendly wager with friends or co-workers should not have to worry about committing a crime," said Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries, who proposed the measure. The Lake Elsinore Republican said his goal is to make the punishment fit the offense — not to legalize office betting. In a state where residents can gamble daily on Indian casino games, Lotto and horse racing, Jeffries sees no reason to hammer them for friendly betting on major sporting events. Under Assembly Bill 1852, violators would be guilty of an infraction, punishable by a $500 fine. Current law allows first offenders to be jailed for up to one year and fined $5,000.
Get set for a Grapes of Wrath-type migration toward California over the next two days, as the common office worker looks for a fresh start in a land of hope and opportunity. Of course, this has never been an issue for me. No juror who ever saw my picks would call that gambling.
But here's a question: How many state and federal laws are being broken by MSNBC, whose "It's Madness" NCAA Tournament bracket contest is offering $10,000 to the winner? Don't expect any congressional hearings on this, by the way.