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Here's a wet blanket for participants in your office or barroom Super Bowl pool:

The IRS is watching.

A Buffalo spokesman for the Internal Revenue Service issued a reminder Friday that winnings from football pools -- like any other kind of pool -- are considered taxable income that should be reported on income-tax forms.

Federal agents believe that millions of dollars are bet on the Super Bowl every year -- some in friendly, legal wagering such as office pools and some with illegal gambling rings.

"I don't want to sound like Big Brother," said the spokesman, Terry Dunford. "I'm not saying we have an agent in every bar, but if you do win one of these big pools, we are going to find out about it eventually." Dunford said he has heard of local bars that run Super Bowl pools in which participants are paying up to $1,000 a square to bet on the score by quarters or the final scores of Sunday's game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Denver Broncos, with winners receiving $30,000 or more.

The IRS is aware that many bars, factories, offices and other workplaces are running pools. He suggested that to avoid legal problems, people who win such pools should report the income on their next tax return.

"It's better to report the income right away," Dunford said. "Because if we find out years later, that will cost you a lot more in fines and interest."

Asked whether IRS employees in Buffalo ever run football pools themselves, Dunford said: "Not to my knowledge."

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