Ever wonder if plunking down a few bucks to participate in one of those ubiquitous March Madness brackets is actually legal?

Well, in Maine, the answer is… maybe.

Experts said this week that Maine is one of a handful of states that has long allowed what its statutes call “social gambling,” from poker games to office pools focused on the NCAA’s popular college basketball tournament.

A long as pool participants compete on equal terms, receive nothing more than their share of the winnings and nobody involved gets something else of value, it’s A-OK with the state.

That means, for example, a group of folks at a sports bar or a public works garage or the corner coffee shop can create a pool on their own.

But if a business or organization played a role in organizing the betting, it’s possible that crossed a legal line because even garnering some good will or an extra customer or two could be construed as a benefit to its bottom line.

It’s not something that police are in a hurry to crack down, officials said. At most, it would likely lead to a request that organizers stop doing it. Only the most brazen violators wind up in trouble.

The bottom line is that Mainers who want to join the 47 million other Americans who are betting on the NCAA tournament games that begin Thursday are almost certainly safe in doing so.

The American Gaming Association estimated this week that those 47 million folks are going to fill in 150 million brackets and fork over $8.5 million in bets on March Madness.

Since most of them live in states that aren’t as gambling-tolerant as Maine, most of those bracket-fillers are placing those bets illegally, not that anyone much cares.

By the way, the gaming association said nearly a third of Americans think Duke is going all the way. Its arch rivals, Virginia and North Carolina, are the top pick of little more than one in 20 fans.

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