If there’s one thing that’s true in government, it’s that there’s a policy for just about everything — including March Madness.

If you’re an NCAA diehard who is leading, or participating in, an office bracket this year, you could be risking federal ethics violations.

Every year, en estimated tens of millions of U.S. adults fill out a bracket during the three-week competition that deepens rivalries, delights fans and generates billions in dollars in sports bets for both the men’s and women’s tournament. Since the very first NCAA tournament in 1939, the annual showdown of 68 teams has become the pinnacle of college basketball and a time so revered that an ultimately unsuccessful petition began circulating in 2016 to make the first two days of the competition a nationally recognized holiday, reported the Washington Post.

Alas, feds do not have today or tomorrow off of work for this purpose, which means fans may be inclined to participate anyway while on the clock.

If so, be warned; federal policy strictly forbids use of government equipment, like phones or computers, for gambling, even if it’s just contributing a few dollars to an office bracket pool.

In order for something to be considered gambling, it has to include required payment or wagering of something, an element of “chance,” and a reward or prize.

Moreover, “even if your participation in March Madness is not considered gambling — i.e., simply picking winners to claim office bragging rights,” you should not use your government equipment for personal use, according to regulation. Beware that federal employees also cannot stream games on government networks because it may interfere with official business.

Much of this should be obvious, but we know how tempting it can be to get swept up in the spirit of the season. (This comes sympathetically from a writer who is a staunch Tar Heel fan.)

Note that these rules also apply to those who telework.

The best advice, according to the Interior Department, is to avoid March Madness activity while working altogether.

For service members looking to keep up with their team overseas, American Forces Network, a government television and radio broadcast service, will be airing all of the games.

Molly Weisner is a staff reporter for Federal Times where she covers labor, policy and contracting pertaining to the government workforce. She made previous stops at USA Today and McClatchy as a digital producer, and worked at The New York Times as a copy editor. Molly majored in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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