NEW YORK (MainStreet) — You might get away with playing the office's NCAA March Madness pool, just don't run it. Collecting the money and handing out the payouts means you're the bookie. A hard-core, hard-time, hardwood hustler. Of course, you're in cahoots with the other 50,000,000 would-be felons in America, as well.

Aside from the money lost by employees from blown-up brackets, the U.S. workplace stands to shed at least $1.2 billion an hour in productivity during the first week of the NCAA Division 1 men's basketball tournament, according to the global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

And – probably because it's one thing they don't get a cut of -- the NCAA opposes these popular office pools.

"The NCAA is aware of pools involving $100,000 or more in revenue," the athletic association says, without revealing the locations of the big money brackets. "Worse yet, the NCAA has learned these types of pools are often the entry point for youth to begin gambling."

You hear that? We're putting our children at risk here.

And do you remember the 1991 case where an office pool cost three Wall Street traders their jobs and left a clerical employee $330,000 in debt? Here's the famous bracket.

Can you beat TheStreet...at basketball? Jim Cramer and our Wall Street pros are posting their brackets on ESPN. Take them on at www.thestreet.com/espn Password: Thestreet2015.

The FBI estimates more than $2.5 billion is wagered illegally on March Madness, according to the NCAA. And Challenger, Gray & Christmas says the estimate of 50,000,000 at-work participants may even be low.

"In 2012, 86% of respondents to an MSN survey indicated they will devote at least part of their workday to updating brackets, checking scores and following games during the tournament," the company says in a release. "If that survey pool was representative of the U.S. working population, more than 100 million workers [could be] expected to be distracted by March Madness."

In addition to lower employee productivity, increased juvenile delinquency, civil unrest and lawlessness, with an estimated 6.8 million viewers streaming the games on their computers or mobile devices, March Madness may also be a bandwidth bandit.

"Of course, as any corporate IT manager will attest, increased Internet traffic resulting from just a handful of employees streaming games will dramatically slow Internet speeds for the entire office. So, this means that productivity could be hindered even for those workers not caught up in March Madness," says John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Let's face it. America will be in shambles for at least a week or so. But Challenger advises employers: don't fight it.

"Instead, employers may want to seek ways to use March Madness as a tool to increase employee engagement," Challenger says. "Promoting a company-wide office pool that is free to enter, for example, could help boost camaraderie and encourage interaction among co-workers who may not typically cross paths."

He also advises relax dress codes and allow workers to wear sweatshirts and T-shirts in support of their favorite team. And there are ways companies can counteract a potential loss in productivity.

"Companies may be able to prevent unplanned absences related to March Madness by serving a catered lunch on the first two days of the tournament," Challenger says. "Others may want to have a couple of televisions around the office showing games, which might keep some employees from streaming games at their desk."

Now we're talking.

--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet

Can you beat TheStreet...at basketball? Jim Cramer and our Wall Street pros are posting their brackets on ESPN. Take them on at www.thestreet.com/espn Password: Thestreet2015.