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Here’s why your March Madness pool is illegal

BY and   March 21, 2015 at 7:13 PM EDT
PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 19:  Cameron Ridley #55 of the Texas Longhorns battles for a rebound against Kameron Woods #31 of the Butler Bulldogs during the second round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Consol Energy Center on March 19, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Cameron Ridley #55 of the Texas Longhorns battles for a rebound against Kameron Woods #31 of the Butler Bulldogs during the second round of the 2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Consol Energy Center on March 19, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

If you’re a college hoops fan, you’ve likely been waiting all year for the NCAA’s March Madness tournament. You made your picks, filled out your bracket, wagered a few dollars.

But it turns out, you’re also breaking the law.

Because of a 1992 law called The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA), betting on any almost any sporting event outside of Las Vegas is illegal.  

Making it against the law, however, hasn’t stopped it from happening:  the federal government estimates that anywhere from 80 to 300 billion dollars is illegally bet on sports every year in America. Most of that action happens via bookies or on a number of offshore sports gambling websites.

But in a nation that seems increasingly comfortable with legal gambling — witness the national explosion of casinos, state lotteries and video poker, which are legally available in nearly every state in the country — why has betting on sports remained illegal?

The mafia might be part of the answer.

NewsHour Weekend sat down with Chad Millman, editor of ESPN The Magazine, who says that since organized crime was linked with sports betting back in the 1950s, it’s never lost its stigma. Watch the video in the player above.

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