Sweepstakes Law Basics
Print PDF

A 2-page document highlighting the basics of sweepstakes law.

Sweepstakes Law Basics

What is a sweepstakes?
A sweepstakes is a promotion in which a prize is awarded on the basis of chance rather than skill. If a prize is awarded on the basis of skill the promotion is considered a contest.

How is a sweepstakes different than a lottery?
With the exception of state run lotteries and authorized raffles, lotteries are illegal under state and federal laws. Generally, a lottery is a promotion in which all three of the following elements are present: 1) prize; 2) chance; and 3) consideration.

Can I require the purchase of a product to enter?
No. A legitimate sweepstakes (as opposed to a lottery) typically removes the consideration element from the promotion, and therefore, a product purchase generally cannot be required as a condition of entry.

What is consideration?
Consideration is a legal term which generally means an undertaking in response to a promise. There are generally two types of consideration in the context of sweepstakes promotions: monetary and non-monetary. Monetary is typically the payment of money, such as the purchase of a product or a service or the direct payment of an entry fee. Non-monetary consideration is an entrant’s expenditure of considerable time or effort.

What are the official rules?
All sweepstakes must have official rules, which is the contract between the sponsor and the entrant. The rules CANNOT change once a sweepstakes has begun.

The official rules must typically contain the following information: (1) A no purchase is necessary; (2) start and end dates; (3) eligibility requirements (age, residency, also specify exclusions); (4) method to enter – including a “no purchase” method of entry; (5) any limitations on the number of entries by a single person or household; (6) odds of winning; (7) description and value of the prize(s); (8) how the winner(s) will be selected and notified; (9) restrictions on receiving the prize; (10) void jurisdictions; and (11) and sponsor’s name and address. Additional disclosures are required depending on the type of promotion and the jurisdictions and channels in which it is offered.

What are the registration requirements when offering a sweepstakes?
In Florida, New York and Rhode Island sponsors are required to register all sweepstakes where the total retail value of all the prizes is greater than $5,000 ($500 in Rhode Island for retail store promotions). The registration must be filed with the following:

Florida

New York

 

Rhode Island

 

Florida Dept. of Agriculture & Consumer Services Div. of Consumer Service

407 S. Calhoun St.,

1st Floor

Tallahassee, FL 32399

850 488 2221

NYS Dept. of State Misc. Records Bureau

41 State Street

Albany, NY 12231

518 474 0050

Office of the Sec. of State

100 North Main Street

Providence, RI 02903

401 222 3040

What are the bonding requirements when offering a sweepstakes?
In Florida and New York a bond in an amount equal to the total value of the offered prizes must be submitted with the registration.

What disclosures are required?
The laws regarding sweepstakes depend on many factors, including the jurisdiction in which the promotion is offered and the marketing channel used. For example, sweepstakes offered through the mail must contain in more conspicuous type the following disclosures in three places (text, rules, and entry form): "No purchase is necessary. A purchase will not increase your chances of winning." Sweepstakes offered through telemarketing have other mandatory oral disclosures under federal and state laws. In addition, state laws apply, which may require additional disclosures, and vary based on the amount of the prizes being offered.

What happens if I experience technical difficulties or a printing error?
A properly structured sweepstakes should provide a remedy for all potential contingencies.

What is required after the sweepstakes winner(s) are selected?
Records of the sweepstakes prize winner(s) should be retained for a period of no less than 4 years. Additionally, if the sweepstakes was bonded, the sponsor must send a winners list in Florida and New York. Other states require the posting of winner’s lists. In addition, in some instances the entry materials may need to be retained for a defined period of time.