Is Participating In March Madness Pools Actually Illegal Gambling?

Vanishing Packers Practice 

Q: A friend showed me an old picture, probably from the late ’50s or early ’60s, of the Green Bay Packers working out at the Bear Mountain Inn. When did the Packers hold their training camp there?

—Lou Fanning, Peekskill

A: According to the official Packers historian, Cliff Christl, they never did (officially speaking). The folks at the Bear Mountain Inn don’t have any recollection of the Pack holding camp there either. However, Christl offered a possible explanation for your photograph:

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“On August 22, 1960, the Packers played a preseason game in Jersey City after playing in New Orleans the week before. It is possible that they might have gone to [Bear Mountain] for a week of practice in between. They also may have gone there when Lombardi was coaching because he had attended and coached at nearby Fordham and also coached at West Point.”

What I find amazing in the photographs is the complete absence of swooshes, stripes, and emblems. This legendary team chock-full of hall-of-famers is decked out in white cotton T-shirts, white football pants, and green windbreakers. Today, if you could even get this close to a pro team, they’d have more endorsements on their gear than a NASCAR pace car.

A Castle in Dobbs Ferry

Q: Just south of the Dobbs Ferry Metro-North station, there’s a building that always catches my eye. It appears to be a small, square castle-like structure right on the Hudson, but what the heck is it?

—Jan O’Gaughran, Dobbs Ferry

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A: The structure you’re spotting from the train was part of a property owned by Mother Cabrini, now a saint. The castle-like structure was built in the early 1900s when Cabrini was gifted 1,000 cartloads of quartz and granite stone. Back then, another structure on the property housed an orphanage and school, but that building was razed in ’73, and today, Cabrini of Westchester, a provider of eldercare services, stands in its place (in decidedly un-castle-like fashion).

What most folks traveling on the train don’t
realize is that the castle is actually three stories high and offers a phenomenal view of the River. Strangely enough, the windows vary from Gothic
to Romanesque to semi-modern factory-
produced models.

It is unclear why this structure was not demolished except for its beauty and the view it affords. Shame it isn’t utilized today.

A Little Bit Illegal

Q: Seems like every year around March the cops bust bookies right in the middle of March Madness to scare off all the gamblers. Yet, it always seems like these guys pay a fine and then go right back to taking bets. And isn’t it the case that the March Madness pools we’re all in are actually a form of illegal gambling?

—Joseph Cipriano, Eastchester

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A: Let me take your second point first. Technically speaking, office pools are against the law because they are a form of illegal gambling, which is why here at the Westchester Magazine office they, uh, are, uh, you know…not allowed. 

Legal or illegal, there isn’t a whole lot of interest from law enforcement in cracking down on a handful of people throwing in a sawbuck a piece and taking their chance on a prize. 

I don’t even play a lawyer on TV, but I can tell you that if you get involved in big-time gambling, you definitely can go to prison. Back in December there was a huge bust in Rockland County that nabbed 21 guys running a big-time operation that took bets on all sorts of college and pro sports across a bunch of states, and there was also some loan sharking and laundering going on.

The operative phrase is “big time.” New York State law differentiates between first and second degree gambling promotion, with the essential difference being the size of the bets. If you took more than five bets collectively worth $5,000 or more in any one day, you could be facing a first degree promoting of gambling charge, which is a class E felony. This is serious business.

The second-degree charges involve less moolah and are generally classified as misdemeanors. Second-degree charges carry less of a possibility of jail time than first-degree charges.

If violence, gun possession, loan sharking, drugs, and other fun stuff are going on while the Knicks aren’t covering the spread against the Sixers, you’re undoubtedly in for more trouble. 

In any case, if no one got hurt and you claim you were using your winnings to fund the local orphanage, your lawyer can probably get your charges reduced. In the meantime, take the home team and the points, and bet against any squad that has to come east across three time zones.  

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