SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The golden anniversary of the NFL’s most watched event, Super Bowl 50, is expected to set off the biggest betting frenzy ever.

“As Americans celebrate a milestone Super Bowl, they’ll also bet a record amount on the Big Game,” said Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the AGA in a press release Monday. “Just like football, sports betting has never been more popular than it is today.”

When the turf has settled, and the game is over between the Panthers and the Broncos, Americans will have bet a whopping $4.2, according AGA, and 97% of those bets will be illegal.

Face it. Most people are not going to wager in the handful of states where sports betting is legal — Nevada, Delaware, Montana, and Oregon. Instead they’ll innocently toss in a few dollars as the hat gets passed in offices, sports bars and living rooms across the country.

Folks will bet on final scores, point spreads, commercial breaks, even the color of Beyonce’s hair.

So is the pool at your Super Bowl party illegal?

Yes and no. It depends on where you live, which side of the bet you’re on, and if you stand to make a profit.

Under California law, it isn’t illegal to place a bet, but it is illegal to take a bet. Acting as a bookie, and making a profit on wagers can land you in hot water.

California Penal Code Section 337(a) makes it pretty clear. Pools, bets and wagers of $2,500 or less are considered an ‘infraction’ and punishable by a $250 fine. If it’s above $2,500, it is a misdemeanor that can land you behind bars for up to a year for the first offense. If you’ve had priors, it could be a felony with much steeper fines, and as much as three years in prison.

In contrast, California law enforcement takes a softer view on so-called ‘social betting,’ where no one stands to make more than all the other players. Is it legal? Well, the answer is murky, but probably more no, than yes.

Nevertheless, most Californians will take their chances this Super Bowl Sunday, as they have done years before. It’s the one day of the year people who never bet, will place a bet. This year, an estimated $4.1 billion will be illegal, according to the AGA. That’s of a lot of dollar bills.

So… what will color do you think Beyonce’s hair be? writer, producer Jan Mabry is also executive producer and host of The Bronze Report. She lives in Northern California. Follow her on Twitter @janmabr.



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