Risky gambling at the workplace: Super Bowl squares and betting pools

Feb 6, 2024

It’s officially Super Bowl week, with the big game just days away. Along with watching the game, a lot of Americans will wager on the event. One of the most popular methods of betting on the Super Bowl is with “Super Bowl squares.” While taking part in squares may seem harmless, it can actually lead to significant problems. Here’s a breakdown of what Super Bowl squares are and the danger that can come with them.

Super Bowl Squares

How to Play 

Super Bowl squares are played on a 10 by 10 grid. One of the NFL teams playing in the Super Bowl will be on the vertical axis, with their opponent on the horizontal axis. Both axes will then be labeled with a number between 0-9. From there, it’s time to buy a square. Participants will buy a square (or multiple) on the board for a set amount of money. Once all the squares are filled, it’s time for the game.

Super Bowl squares can be played every quarter, half, or just the final score of the game - depending on what the group has agreed to. To win Super Bowl squares, you need to have the square that intersects with the correct second digit of the score for each team. For example, the Chiefs beat the Eagles 38-35 in Super Bowl 57, so the person who had the square that intersects with 5 on the Eagles axis and 8 on the Chiefs axis won either the total or a portion of the pot of money.

Dangers and Risks 

There are a few dangers and risks of playing squares that you should be aware of. First of all, to a casual sports fan, it could be an introduction to the sports gambling space. The experience of participating in Super Bowl squares could lead to a feeling of excitement and thrill that the person may want to feel again. That could cause the person to start betting more often to chase that feeling. 

Squares can be seen as a potential gateway to sports betting. The contest may seem harmless, but it can open the door to other gambling games. Gambling can frequently also lead to addiction, so it’s important not to get carried away and remember the risks.

Betting Pools

Types and Rules

Betting pools are another way that some people choose to add additional rooting interests to the Super Bowl. Pools can be made up of different predictions about what will happen in the game, with a group of friends or colleagues at an office competing against one another to make the most correct picks. Betting pools vary in payouts and structure, but generally involve paying an entry fee to join, then receiving a portion of the pot as winnings if your predictions are among the best. The multiple predictions that can be involved in a betting pool are reminiscent of the multiple “legs” in a “parlay,” which is a single bet comprised of multiple individual picks that all need to be correct for the parlay to win. Therefore, betting pools can act as a gateway into parlay betting, where the sportsbook has an even larger mathematical advantage than normal and it’s therefore even more difficult to profit long term. 

Dangers and Risks 

Similar to squares, betting pools are often seen as a casual social activity that appears harmless. However, just like squares, pools are a form of gambling that can lead people down a path to addiction. Just because you’re only wagering $5 to enter a pool doesn’t eliminate the risk of developing a problem in the future. The potential added emotional thrill of rooting interests from a betting pool while watching the big game can act as a gateway and lead to a desire to recreate that feeling with additional gambling in the future. Therefore, if you are going to take part, be sure to know the risks and take time to learn responsible gaming habits beforehand. 

Are Super Bowl Squares legal? 

While more than three-quarters of states in the country have legalized sports gambling in some fashion, the legality of Super Bowl squares remains a gray-area topic. Despite the popularity of Super Bowl squares and pools, many states still have laws prohibiting a person from creating and operating their own Super Bowl betting contests. 

In light of this, some online sportsbooks in certain states now allow users to bet on Super Bowl squares legally. Users can compete with others and it is 100% legal, as they are being organized by a regulated operator as part of their wagering offerings in that state. 

Much like jaywalking or driving a couple miles per hour over the speed limit, the large majority of people who create Super Bowl squares contest never face legal prosecution. Nevertheless, the mere threat of it should be enough for many to reconsider whether they want to organize one.

Super Bowl Squares: Gateway into Sports Betting 

It’s important to remember that even though it’s often seen as a casual social activity, that doesn’t take away the risk of losing money and/or developing an addiction. Problem Gambling behaviors are very serious and can begin with even seemingly nefarious activities like betting that include predictions on how long the national anthem will be. There is always the risk of developing an addiction when engaging in gambling, whether it’s a $100 wager on the winter of the Super Bowl or a $5 entry in squares. 

Gambling Addiction Help and Resources

If gambling appears to be becoming an issue for you or a loved one, there are helpful resources available. Birches Health provides quick, flexible treatment options for gambling addiction with virtual counseling that can be covered by insurance. Trained specialists and the 24/7 care team will help guide you or others to the right path forward with treatment. 

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