ANNAPOLIS – Which is more scandalous, the fact that state lawmakers are betting on the NCAA tournament, or the fact that they are not picking the University of Maryland Terrapins to win?
“I’m picking the (University of North Carolina) Tar Heels,” said Del. D. Bruce Poole, D-Washington.
At businesses all over the state, employees prepare for March Madness by joining office pools and filling out brackets with their best guesses for the tournament winner.
The Maryland General Assembly is no exception. But since gambling, even just in office pools, is still against the law, it’s not easy to get anyone in Annapolis to talk about it.
“For years there have been different pools distributed by different people,” said Poole, adding that even though the bets are minimal, the competition is exciting.
“It’s a fun distraction,” Poole said.
Del. Leon Billings, D-Montgomery, said he worked on his picks during a committee hearing Monday.
“It was a long hearing. I was working on my analysis of who would win,” Billings said.
Billings is in a pool sponsored by the American Lung Association.
“Everybody contributes to them (pools), so if they’re not legal, they’re practiced in the breach,” he said.
Like Poole, Billings did not go with the home team.
“I think for sure North Carolina and Kansas will be in the Final Four,” he said.
Even though support for the Terrapins did not show up in the brackets, it could be seen last week in interruptions of committee hearings and floor sessions to announce the score of Maryland games.
“Everybody here is a Maryland fan. They’ve got to be,” said Sen. Christopher McCabe, R-Howard.
But some insisted that they are just fans, not gamblers.
“We don’t gamble here,” said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George’s, a noted Terps fan. Miller said he would probably be the last to find out about an NCAA pool anyway.
Del. Rushern Baker III, D-Prince George’s, said he thinks there are some pools around, but he hasn’t been invited to participate in any.
Del. David Brinkley, R-Frederick, also said there probably are some, but none that he’s aware of. “I haven’t seen any and I’m not participating,” he said.
Sen. Norman Stone, Jr., D-Baltimore County, said he has never heard of betting pools being passed around by legislators. But it does not matter to him anyway — he doesn’t follow the tournament.
“I’m not really a basketball fan,” said Stone.
Others admitted they followed the tournament, but insisted that they keep it legal.
“That’s against the law,” said Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, D- Baltimore, when asked about the possible existence of March Madness betting in the State House.
“We have friendly discussions of who we think is going to win,” he added with a smile. –Capital News Service reporter Chris Gosier contributed to this report.