President Obama's NCAA bracket, distributed by the White House, and his comments to ESPN that he would buy the first lady some shoes if he won, may have crossed strict ethics lines barring federal workers from doing their own brackets while on duty.

Officials in several federal offices have told Secrets that they have been ordered to stay off their work computers when drawing up their gambling brackets for the annual March Madness basketball tournaments.

A federal memo that different agencies have rewritten to fit their workforce, this one from the Air Force, reads:

It's that time of year again, sports fans! College basketball conference tournaments are in full swing and ‘March Madness,’ the NCAA men's basketball tournament, starts this week.

It's time to send out that e-mail to the squadron and let them know who the point of contact is to collect everyone's $5 entry fee, right? Wrong. Like it or not, participating in a money-betting pool for NCAA basketball games in the workplace on duty time violates ethics laws and subjects employees to disciplinary action.

The memo cites “Code of Federal Regulations, Title 5, Section 735.201,” which prohibits civilian and military employees from “participating in any gambling activity, including the operation of a gambling device, a lottery or pool, a game for money or property, or selling or purchasing a numbers slip or ticket while on government owned or leased property, or while on government duty.”

Billionaire Warren Buffett is offering $1 billion to anyone who picks a perfect bracket.

The president regularly releases his bracket and this year is using it in his administration's effort to jazz younger Americans into signing up for Obamacare. But he stepped into the gambling area in an ESPN interview.

Our Meghashyam Mali reported today:

Asked what he would do if he won the money, Obama said: “You know I’m sure somebody would ask me to pay down more of the federal debt.”

“Michelle might want a few shoes,” he jokingly said of the first lady.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at