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Sweepstakes, Contests, and Giveaway Laws Bloggers and Brands Need to Know

 

Contest and Sweepstakes Law

More and more I’m seeing giveaways that may not be fully compliant with federal or state laws governing giveaways. Whether online or off, there are a host of laws that every contest holder must follow or risk significant fines or, in some states, criminal prosecution. Giveaway laws in the U.S. cover sweepstakes, contests, and lotteries.

Sweepstakes and contests have been used by marketers for decades to create awareness for their product or service. Bloggers are getting into the promotion business, not only for themselves but also for brands of all sizes. While brands often have legal counsel to advise them on the intricacies of running a contest that complies with all laws, that information is not usually passed down to bloggers. As such, bloggers are left to their own accord. This has resulted in a number of different tactics being used. Unfortunately, many bloggers are not compliant with the various laws exposing them to potential liability.

What are Sweepstakes, Contests and Lotteries?

Sweepstakes are prize giveaways where the winners are chosen by the luck of the draw (“chance” or random are often used to explain how winners are chosen). Prizes can be almost anything a blogger can think of from handmade cards to an all-expenses-paid trip.

Contests choose a winner based on some merit. The winner is chosen based on some criteria such as best photo, funniest parenting tip, etc.

A Lottery is a prize drawing where people must pay money to buy a chance to win. Lotteries are highly regulated and should not be run without consulting with legal counsel.

While many bloggers use the term ‘contest’, unless there is some skill-based criteria for choosing the winner their giveaway is most likely a sweepstakes. In addition, I’ve seen that most bloggers will use some form of random selection process to choose the winner of their giveaway item, thus making their giveaway a sweepstakes and not, in fact, a contest.

What laws govern?

In the United States, sweepstakes promotions are regulated by numerous federal and state laws as well as overseen by various federal agencies. Federal agencies with jurisdiction to regulate sweepstakes promotions include the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”), the United States Postal Service (“USPS”), and the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”). Sweepstakes promotions are also regulated by state laws. And let’s not forget that sweepstakes and contest promotions may be the subject of a private lawsuit brought directly by a consumer with a beef as to how the promotion was handled.

If a sweepstakes or contest promotion allows nationwide participation, the promotion must comply not only with federal regulations, but also the regulations of each state. For example, in California, the Business and Professions Code governs the promotion of the sweepstakes while the Penal Code (criminal law) sets forth the definition of a lottery.  In New York, if the total value of the prize(s) offered is more than $5,000.00 the law requires that consumer sweepstakes be registered and bonded at least 30 days before the commencement of the sweepstakes. The State of Florida also has bonding requirements for sweepstakes.

Could my giveaway be an Illegal Lottery?

A lottery has three things: Prize, Chance and Consideration.

Prize – without a prize your giveaway would be lame and no one would enter it, so there’s always a prize!

Chance – pure luck! You could get around this by having some skill requirement but that is often difficult to manage or greatly limits the number of people who will enter.

Consideration – something of value. Often it’s money, but it doesn’t have to be. Depending on what you require entrants to do, you could be pushing the envelope on this element. Each state may have their own particular definition making it very difficult to manage.

When it comes to online entrepreneurs, there are few things more valuable than followers. As such, requiring someone to ‘like’ you or ‘follow’ you could be construed as consideration. Even more important, asking an entrant to go to a third-party site, navigate to find a product or services and then report back to your site is even more likely to be deemed consideration and thus placing your giveaway into the classification of illegal lottery. Time is exceedingly valuable!

While online promotions seem to be everywhere, the laws pertaining to this realm have not been as quick to develop as the internet itself. As such, even by providing an easy and simple means of entering but providing additional entries conditioned upon doing certain things may result in your giveaway not complying with necessary laws.

Who can enter my giveaway?

You will often see that a contest or sweepstakes is only open to those 18 years of age or older. This is because the laws relating to minors adds a layer of complexity that many are not willing to manage.

Because websites often have visitors from all over the world, can you just let anyone enter? The short answer is yes, if you are willing to comply with the laws of every jurisdiction (including those of foreign countries). In Canada, for example, the winner cannot be chosen by a random selection, but rather some element of skill must be involved. And if you do wish to open your giveaway to residents of Canada, you must go one step further and either exclude Quebec or add in the various additional rules that province requires.

While online entrepreneurs definitely don’t want to leave their Canadian visitors out in the cold, it’s a harsh reality of administering a giveaway through a sweepstakes that residents of Canada must be excluded. It’s the same reason readers under the age of 18 are often excluded. It becomes cumbersome to administer the promotion if more laws must be followed.

Checklist for your giveaway:

If your giveaway winner will be chosen at random you are hosting a sweepstakes and thus you should comply with the laws regarding sweepstakes.

1. Identify the prize – provide as much detail as necessary to both identify it and make it attractive to your readers

2. Who can enter – detail who is allowed to enter, as well as those excluded (for example, employees of the sponsor)

3. Duration – clearly set out when the giveaway (sweepstakes) will begin and end, and follow through

4. How to enter – let the person know what they need to do to enter your sweepstakes, keeping in mind elements of consideration that could vault your sweepstakes into illegal lottery territory. Ultimately, the best bet is to keep the entry as simple as possible.

5. How Winner Is Chosen – describe how you will choose your winner, especially since you are likely choosing randomly

6. Technical Issues – since we all know there could be technical problems, let people know how they will be handled. For example, will you delete duplicate entries? If your site goes down, what will you do?

Group of Bloggers/Influencers Come Together For Giveaways

Recently I’ve noticed that a group of bloggers or influencers will get together and offer several prizes. This is a new phenomenon that presents unique concerns. While it is uncharted territory, the legal ramifications can be far-reaching. Consideration needs to be given to the total value of the prizes given away because it could require either filing for and obtaining bonds in states that require them, or declaring their promotion void in those states. Because the giveaway is often billed as a cross-blog promotion and involving many prizes, it would be advisable for the bloggers involved to ensure they are compliant to avoid potential civil and/or criminal violations.

Tax Implications

While this will not apply to all, you need to be aware that any giveaway with a winner getting a prize valued at $600 or more must be reported to the Internal Revenue Service. Knowing that, the blogger should not only make entrants aware of the value of the prize but also that they will need to complete a prize validation as well as are responsible for any taxes that may result from winning.

Conclusion

In summary, running a legally compliant giveaway involves a lot more than throwing up a post. Bloggers need to adhere to a variety of federal and state laws, as well as ensure compliance with federal agencies if that is the case. And while blogger do not want to exclude any of their readers, sometimes it is necessary. Finally, if your giveaway is over $5,000.00 there will be other state laws and bonding requirements that will need to be met.

If you are planning a sweepstakes or contest and would like more information on how to do it right, please contact me.

By | 2018-09-30T15:08:56+00:00 May 10th, 2011|Blogging, Business Law, Giveaways, Social Media|533 Comments

533 Comments

  1. Li May 10, 2011 at 9:02 am - Reply

    EXCELLENT POST! I love the blog law series! It’s the only thing I read concerning the law outside of my work. Kudos to you for writing it (for down that road I care-not to wander).

    Superfantastic information chica! I will now prepare to RT it!

    Best,
    Li
    @LaLicenciada
    @HerDeepThoughts

    • Sara May 12, 2011 at 9:37 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Li! I appreciate your visiting and reading and sharing my blog law posts. It means so much to me that you read it. Because I know after work you don’t want to read legal things.

      I appreciate your support!
      Sara

  2. Tracy May 10, 2011 at 10:34 am - Reply

    That’s why I rarely do contests/giveaways, etc. What a headache! … And I feel badly for our poor Canadian friends! lol…

    • Sara May 12, 2011 at 9:34 pm - Reply

      Tracy,

      Thank you for visiting! I, too, feel bad that our Canadian friends don’t get to be part of the fun.

      Sara

      • Chris Hurff July 15, 2015 at 4:00 pm - Reply

        Sara, Can you sell a product of value and give a free entry without it being considered gambling, a sweepstakes or a raffle etc? You’re not buying a lottery ticket, a raffle ticket with the terms specified as a raffle/sweepstakes. You’re buying a product and with the purchase you receive one entry into a giveaway. Thanks Chris

        • Sara Hawkins July 16, 2015 at 12:15 pm - Reply

          Chris, this is a very common questions. For a sweepstakes, if an entry can be gained through purchase, there must be an entry mechanism in place that would allow an entrant to enter the sweepstakes without conferring something of value (consideration) to the Sponsor and/or Administrator.

          The “consideration” does not need to be the purchase of a lottery ticket or raffle ticket. A raffle is just another word for lottery that is allowed for certain types of charitable fundraising and still regulated. Courts have determined that “consideration” as used with regard to sweepstakes is anything of value or requiring significant effort by the entrant. In the digital age, what exactly is “consideration” has not yet been adjudicated. However, the existing definition still controls.

          Many sweepstakes have an entry that is given by a purchase. Those that are legally complaint, however, also have methods of entry that do not require purchase or confer “consideration”.

          Hope this helps.

          • Chris Hurff July 16, 2015 at 3:33 pm

            Sara,

            Excellent information, thank you kindly.

            Let me phrase it another way as I’ve seen this done in the past, but being “locally” based my suspicion is that its either small enough or local and the IRS isn’t all that vested in keeping track of every local raffle.

            If I’m a retailer, and I want to sell X amount of one specific product at a fixed price and offer a complimentary/free entry into a giveaway for something with a value over $600.00 and I have multiple partner charities that will financially benefit from it……is this legal? And Can I operate it not as a non-profit, education institution or church? No significant effort by the entrant is required.

            Do you know how Omaze is organized and how it operates as it is a for profit entity accepting donations “on behalf” (?) of a charity partner and they are very public and raised something like $30M last year. Would love to understand how they are operating? Any information?

            Thank you for your time and excellent information.

            Chris

  3. Mara @ Kosher on a Budget May 10, 2011 at 2:01 pm - Reply

    This whole series has been immensely helpful, Sara! Thank you. This post in particular is very timely for me. I am just talking to a corporate partner about a giveaway and have decided to skip all the possible “considerations” going forward. I’ll be writing up a new giveaway policy and linking up to this helpful post. I’m also sharing it with my corporate partners!

    • Sara May 12, 2011 at 9:32 pm - Reply

      Mara,

      Thank you for your nice comment. So glad to help and offer up information that will empower you as a blogger.

      Sara

      • Paul June 1, 2015 at 10:05 am - Reply

        Great post. Can we assume that if the value of the prize is < $5000, we exclude Canada and minors under 18 years old then we can run a random draw as a sweepstake legally all over the world?

        Would subscribing to a mailing list with a one-click action (clicking "Subscribe and Enter" button) be a "consideration"?

        • FieryRed June 20, 2015 at 2:58 pm - Reply

          From what I read in this article, other countries besides Canada have laws that would need to be followed too. Also, yes, since mailing list subscribers are valuable to bloggers, that could definitely be considered a consideration (again, based on the info in this article).

        • Sara Hawkins June 20, 2015 at 3:57 pm - Reply

          Paul, the easy answer to your first questions is ‘No’. There are laws in countries around the globe that prohibit random draw promotions. Notably, many European counties specifically ban random draw promotions under their gaming laws.

          Consideration is a very broad legal construct and there is no easy answer as to what is consideration. This is why it’s important to have an entry method that is known to be free of consideration.

  4. Honey May 11, 2011 at 2:35 am - Reply

    Excellent post as usual. Thank you for sharing. Now I understand why everyone leaves Canadians out in the cold (maybe the law and high shipping costs? ).

    Blessings
    Honey

    • Sara May 12, 2011 at 9:30 pm - Reply

      Hello Honey,

      Yes, it’s not personal just likely don’t know exactly how to comply with the law. Although, I’ve seen a number of Canadian bloggers do giveaways that don’t seem to follow the rules set for Canada, so I’m not certain how that all works under Canada law.

      Sara

  5. Amethyst Moon May 12, 2011 at 5:33 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the education!

    • Sara May 12, 2011 at 9:28 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome! Glad to help.

  6. Paula May 13, 2011 at 8:58 pm - Reply

    Hi, Sara–

    I love this series and am very glad you’re addressing this topic, since I’ve just hosted a few giveaways and had wondered about the ins and outs and how-tos of giveaways.

    I have a couple of questions that I’m hoping you can answer or at least point me in the right direction.

    Is there an easy way to find out what various states’ rules are on giveaways? Or what the various states consider lotteries and how to conform to their regulations? How much enforcement is happening on this front and what are the penalties? (I would think they would vary from place to place, but thought I’d ask!)

    Is this a matter of semantics, like on facebook now, bloggers aren’t calling it a “giveaway” they’re calling it “product testing opportunities”–but that to me isn’t morally or ethically right. A rose is a rose is a rose, call it whatever you want. It’s still a rose!

    I definitely want to play by the rules, and truly, giveaways drive a lot of traffic for bloggers. I’d like to be able to host them in an appropriate and lawful way. And not be hindered by semantics that change with the wind.

    Thanks for your help!

    • Sara May 13, 2011 at 11:54 pm - Reply

      Hello Paula,

      Thank you for visiting and commenting. I’m glad you’re enjoying the series I’m writing.

      I do not have a single source for the state laws for sweepstakes, contests and lotteries. However, keep in mind that lotteries are often considered gambling and thus highly regulated and limited to governmental use. Many states have exceptions for non-profit organizations, but do not permit for-profit businesses to conduct a lottery. If you’re at the point of doing something unique, you should consider seeking legal counsel.

      As for what bloggers want to call what they’re doing a ‘product testing opportunity’ it’s completely irrelevant. The laws for sweepstakes and contests have very clear definitions and if what they’re doing violates those laws, it doesn’t matter what they call it.

      The legal definition say a “sweepstakes” is a game of chance one plays voluntarily and for which one is not required to pay anything to enter in order to win a prize. A blogger can call it whatever they want but if what they are doing is this then it’s a “sweepstakes” and subject to those laws.

      I hate to compare it to this but it demonstrates my point. It doesn’t matter if the parent call it discipline, at some point if it fits the definition of abuse then it is just that regardless of the name they give it.

      As for thinking that they won’t get caught, it’s always a risk. It’s a matter of if you’re willing to take it.

      My pleasure to help,
      Sara

  7. […] Blog Law – Is Your Giveaway Legal? […]

  8. Susan in the Boonies June 4, 2011 at 9:52 am - Reply

    Thanks for this article, Sara. I’m a fellow SITS blogger. Very helpful and timely information!

  9. Tina Roggenkamp June 8, 2011 at 7:32 pm - Reply

    Oh wow, I had no idea! Thanks for the info. #commenthour

  10. rachel June 8, 2011 at 8:05 pm - Reply

    oh my. I really need to re-read this again the next time I do a giveaway! thanks for writing! (and enjoyed hearing you speak at BBCSEA!)

    • Sara June 9, 2011 at 8:12 am - Reply

      Hello Rachel,

      Thank you for visiting. Glad you found the information helpful.

      Sara

  11. Nicole Rivera June 8, 2011 at 9:46 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much for such an informative post! I have not yet hosted a giveaway, but I have been thinking of it a bit more lately. I just want to make sure that I have this down correctly, I hope you don’t mind. There are two different ways I was thinking about hosting a giveaway, but now I think one is a giveaway – here’s what I’m thinking:

    1. EXAMPLE: I’m giving away X on June 10th at 6pm if you want to enter, please leave a comment on this post if you are interested and I will RANDOMLY select one of the comments to receive X. Winners will be announced in June 11th’s post. SWEEPSTAKES, YES?

    2. EXAMPLE: I’m giving away X on June 10th at 6pm. Ways to enter: a. leave a comment below expressing interest, b. “LIKE” our fan page on FB, c. follow us on Twitter – leave a comment for each action you take and I will RANDOMLY select one of the comments to receive X. Winners will be announced in June 11th’s post. IS THIS A LOTTERY? And is it, therefore, illegal?

    I have entered numerous giveaways in this fashion, so I thought they were standard fare, but I would like to go by the book!

    I am sure I will be back to read the rest of this series. This is fabulous. Thanks again!

    • Sara June 9, 2011 at 8:10 am - Reply

      Hello Nicole,

      Thank you for visiting and your comment that I’m sure many are asking themselves as well.

      Both are sweepstakes. In the second example, if the ‘Like’ and ‘Follow’ are optional entries it would not be the ‘consideration’ that is contemplated in the definition of lottery. If they are mandatory, there could be potential legal issues.

      In addition, with the second example the promotion would need to comply with the Facebook promotion guidelines as well.

      Hope this helps,
      Sara

      • Nicole Rivera June 23, 2011 at 6:03 am - Reply

        Thanks so much! (Sorry it has taken me so long to reply.) I was thinking of the “likes” and “follows” as optional entries, so that is good to know. I will have to look closely at the FB guidelines before I proceed, but you helped me a great deal her! Thank you so much!

  12. Bennett June 15, 2011 at 11:53 am - Reply

    Hello Sara

    What and excellent article. I am drafting a ‘Give-Away/Contest’ until I read this, now I changed it to a ‘Sweepstake’ thanks to you.

    Where can I get more legal information about for holding an online Sweepstake, and who has to approve Sweepstakes? Also, do Sweepstakes have to be reported to the IRS, where can I get more information?

    Thanks,
    Bennett

  13. Jenae {I Can Teach My Child!} June 16, 2011 at 12:32 pm - Reply

    I was wondering if the main entry was something without any hoops to jump through (liking, following, etc), can extra entries include “extras” and still be legal???

    • Sara June 16, 2011 at 9:45 pm - Reply

      Hello Jenae,

      Thank you for visiting. Your question is a very good one. You can have additional entries that require the entrant to do something that benefits you or a 3rd party so long as there is a way to enter that does not require purchase or some type of consideration to the sweepstakes sponsor.

      Hope this helps,
      Sara

  14. Freebies June 27, 2011 at 1:50 pm - Reply

    So- I have noticed many blogs (big names included) are doing cash giveaways to those who are subscribed to their email newsletters. I have not seen any alternate ways of entering so it looks like these are not legal.

    If you need an example please feel free to email me, I just did not want to put the names here.

    jenetta

  15. Best Blogging Resources & Tips | Creative Kristi July 8, 2011 at 4:54 am - Reply

    […] Is your Giveaway Legal? (here’s a hint: 95% of what I see is NOT-including mine in the past-YIKES!) […]

  16. Rach (DonutsMama) July 11, 2011 at 8:32 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the great info. I’m a fairly new blogger so this is great to know. I just tweeted this out too to my Twitter pals!

  17. Cheryl August 4, 2011 at 6:06 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the great information!

    What about a blog that lists out sweepstakes that are already listed publically? I am in the process of beginning my blog, but want to abide by all the rules. Also, if this ok to do, do you know of any programs to help with this type of site?

    Thanks!
    Cheryl

  18. Shawna Elkins September 17, 2011 at 9:51 am - Reply

    I have a question for you Sara. There has been a lot of debate on this. Can you have an entrant “Make A Purchase” as an entry into a giveaway? Whether it’s mandatory or not? I am pretty sure you can’t do it as mandatory and always thought you couldn’t do it even if it’s not mandatory. I would LOVE to know the RIGHT ANSWER to this question. I for one don’t do it period, but I have seen a lot who do and was just wondering if it’s legal or not. They would be making a purchase from the sponsor of the giveaway!
    Thanks! 🙂 Loved your Blog Law Series!

    • Sara September 17, 2011 at 11:57 am - Reply

      Shawna,

      If a purchase is required for an entry (whether mandatory entry or optional) in a promotion then one of the other 2 elements (prize and chance) need to be missing or the promotion will be considered a lottery. Lotteries are governed by very specific laws and must be approved and authorized by the state. So, w/o a prize it’s not really a good promotion. That leaves the element of chance which would need to be removed. Not knowing exactly how the winner would be chosen, it’s possible that the element of chance is removed.

      Regardless of where the purchase needs to be made, it could be consideration for either the administrator (b/c it gives them goodwill with the 3rd party) or the sponsor (whether purchase is made from them or via a 3rd party).

      So, it depends on how the rest of the promotion would be structured to determine if the promotion is a sweepstakes or possibly a lottery which would be governed by additional laws.

      ~ Sara

  19. nelda September 23, 2011 at 1:19 pm - Reply

    I really enjoyed your well-written summary of this important issue and I have referred several bloggers to it. I do have one question for you about the optional enteries that many bloggers include in their “giveaways”. Some of these optional/additional ways of entering the contest are only available to contestants who have access to a particular resource such as facebook or twitter. Therefore some contestants are allowed to have multiple enteries while others (without access to these reasouces) are not and get only one entry. Is it legal to allow some contestants to enter a contest more than once and others not?

  20. Molly Jo September 30, 2011 at 8:21 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much for this information! I’ve been scouring the web to find if it’s legal to offer a $5 giftcard through my blog. From what I’m reading here, I have nothing to worry about. Thanks so much for the clear and detailed information.

    • Molly Jo September 30, 2011 at 8:32 pm - Reply

      To be quite honest, I read it again, and I’m a bit confused. Could you pretty please take a look at my link and let me know if it’s okay, or if I need to change anything? I’d so appreciate the help! Thank you so much!

  21. Giveaway Laws and Your Blog | The Work at Home Wife October 12, 2011 at 3:53 am - Reply

    […] someone to Follow or Like you may be consideration. Time can also be consideration.  From Saving for Someday, “asking an entrant to go to a third-party site, navigate to find a product or services and then […]

  22. […] state guidelines. My friend Sara Hawkins, an attorney-turned-blogger, has written a handy post with key points of the sweepstakes guidelines. Based on Sara’s post, this really great post from the Keller and Heckman law firm, and my […]

  23. Roland (Coupon Pro) October 18, 2011 at 6:58 pm - Reply

    Great post but I’m slightly confused by one paragraph.

    So it is illegal to require a “like” or “follow” within a giveaway?

    • Sara October 18, 2011 at 7:55 pm - Reply

      Roland,

      If your giveaway is a sweepstakes (which most are) then requiring a “like” or a “follow” could be deemed consideration thus making the giveaway a lottery which would likely be illegal. There is no precedent (either in case law or administrative law) on this currently, as this is truly unchartered territory.

      Do people do it? Sure. But the potential consequence is significant if you become the test-case.

  24. TU Morality, Law & Advertising | Blog | Blog Post #8 October 25, 2011 at 8:44 am - Reply
  25. James October 26, 2011 at 7:17 pm - Reply

    Another situation to consider would be they have to get something from your store *including* a FREE product download. In this case, you are actually giving *them* something, but that way the list of entrants comes from a “sales” list. Does this meet the consideration criteria, in your view?

    • Sara October 26, 2011 at 9:38 pm - Reply

      If you’re requiring an entrant to buy something that would definitely be consideration. There could be an argument that even if it is a ‘Free’ download that there is consideration because ‘# of downloads’ is a valuable indicator of the success of a product. Also, what about those who do, indeed, purchase something? You’d have to have very tight rules that addressed this issue.

      It’s something that has not been tested, but could definitely be argued either way. Programs such as the publisher’s clearing house have gotten in trouble for how entry was handled due to purchase, and it’s been a very expensive defense for them.

  26. Sherisa November 1, 2011 at 11:15 am - Reply

    Hi Sara,

    Two questions for your consideration:

    1. If the contest is actually a “contest” and there is some criteria attached to the winning is there still a requirement for a US contest offering a prize valued at more than $5,000 registered and bonded? For example a scholarship contest that selects a winner based upon an entry.

    2. I like your point that brands should take responsibility for providing bloggers with guidelines. Aside from a link to your blog post 🙂 What do you think would be the most critical information to provide to a blogger who is conducting a contest/giveaway on behalf of a brand?

    • Sara November 2, 2011 at 2:15 pm - Reply

      Sherisa,

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

      1. Bonding in NY and FL are required for games of chance, which will include a contest. You can read the NY information here – http://www.dos.ny.gov/forms/corporations/0255-a.pdf and the FL information here – and keep in mind that California has special disclosure regulations with regard to contests.

      2. I believe that brands/agencies working on behalf of a brand should provide bloggers all the legal parts, as well as compliance with included social media platforms, of the giveaway to ensure they’re doing their part to keep on top of the laws, this would include all the Official Rule language and explaining what can and can not be used as entries on different social media platforms.

      Hope this helps!

      • rachel r. November 13, 2011 at 5:33 pm - Reply

        Do you only need to file in Florida if the prize is worth $5000, or for any promotions? Thanks for this information!

        • Sara November 13, 2011 at 7:02 pm - Reply

          Rachel, Florida bonding requirements relate to promotions which have prizes with a value greater than $5,000 – you can read all the requirements here: http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0800-0899/0849/Sections/0849.094.html

          If you are doing a promotion with multiple prizes which, together, are greater than $5,000 you should seek counsel on this matter as well.

          • SarahJ April 10, 2013 at 5:58 am

            This doesn’t answer the question. The question is, what are the legal requirements for contests with prizes under $5K? Anything goes? No legal scrutiny whatsoever? Anyone can read the statute.

          • Sara April 10, 2013 at 12:52 pm

            SarahJ, the legal requirements for contests are slightly different than those for sweepstakes. For those contests and sweepstakes where the prize is over $5K there are additional requirements. When the prize is valued less than $5K, the contest/sweepstakes must still comply with all state and Federal laws. It’s not an “anything goes” proposition just because the prize value is under $5K. There are still laws that apply regardless of the value of the prize.

  27. Sue November 5, 2011 at 11:58 am - Reply

    I’ve been researching all of the legalities of giveaways recently and this post confirms EVERYTHING I’ve discovered so far. Thank you soooooooo much for this great article! 🙂

    • Sara November 7, 2011 at 11:12 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Sue! Glad my article is helpful to you.

      ~ Sara

  28. julia November 7, 2011 at 1:21 pm - Reply

    How about if you did a “I’m thinking of a number.. ” so that would add a bit of skill so a contest could be opened up to Canadians?

    • Sara November 7, 2011 at 11:11 pm - Reply

      Julia,

      For Canada, it has to be a skill test and asking someone to guess what you’re thinking is not a skill test. Nearly all Canadian sweepstakes utilize a math question.

  29. GOOD READ: Is Your Giveaway Legal? | She Posts November 9, 2011 at 2:12 pm - Reply

    […] Read the rest at Saving for Someday. […]

  30. Cindi @ Moomettes Magnificents November 10, 2011 at 5:34 am - Reply

    For all of the above reasons, and several others, I have eliminated hosting Giveaways within the last year. Frankly, they’re also very time consuming.

  31. Valerie @ Momma in Progress November 10, 2011 at 6:43 am - Reply

    Hi, Sara. I just found your site via Blogging With Amy. I’ve been skimming the blog law archives, particularly the info on contests/sweepstakes/lotteries and Facebook guidelines. I *think* what I am planning to do is a sweepstakes. If I write something on my blog like “if you would like a free book/baby sling/stuffed dinosaur/pet rock leave a comment here and I’ll have my cat choose a winner at random.” Is that a legit “sweepstakes”? Is it best to leave FB out of it? Their “guidelines” seem pretty nitpicky. (So, even though most of my readers are “followers” on FB, rather than saying “leave a comment on my wall” specifically say “go to the blog itself and comment there”?) Ah! It is naive to think that my blog is too small and obscure to worry about this legal stuff? I have maybe a couple hundred page views a week, and less than 150 “followers” (FB fans plus Google reader/connect, etc.). Thanks in advance. Looking forward to checking out more of the site.

    • Sara November 14, 2011 at 8:38 pm - Reply

      Valerie,

      I think you’ve got a good understanding of my post. Keep focused and you’ll be glad you took this road to being a professional blogger.

  32. cp November 14, 2011 at 6:58 am - Reply

    So I just had a company say that the mandatory entry for the giveaway is to visit their site then leave a comment. So this sounds like consideration? So is it ok if it is not mandatory? I typically do not make anything mandatory…but what is your opinion on this. thanks!

    • Sara November 14, 2011 at 8:39 pm - Reply

      CP, asking people to visit certain site could be consideration especially if it is the sponsor of the sweepstakes.

  33. Weekly Book Buzz: Recap: November 6th-12th 2011 on Ex Libris Bitsy November 14, 2011 at 7:35 am - Reply

    […] Google+ Pages were released this past week and many book bloggers are setting up pages for their blogs. This article helps walk you through it. Blog Law – Is Your Giveaway Legal? […]

  34. Are Your Giveaways Illegal? » Photographers Do Not Bend November 17, 2011 at 5:06 am - Reply

    […] In the US, there are federal and state regulations you need to follow – not only your state but any state a participant is from as well! Learn more about contests and blogging from Sara, an attorney who writes for savingforsomeday.com, and her fabulous article here. […]

  35. Tell Me About It Tuesday | { Why I’m An Un-Fun Blog Now} | Creative Kristi November 29, 2011 at 6:02 am - Reply

    […] They are usually sweepstakes. […]

  36. Tania December 31, 2011 at 3:45 pm - Reply

    I knew about some of the legal concerns re: sweepstakes and contests from my days of participating in fundraising events for NFP’s. So I was surprised when I entered the blogging world to see how many giveaways were happening without the rules specifically laid out (not to mention the whole paid/sponsored post ethical concerns).

    It is news to me that likes and follows could be considered consideration! Thank you for that.

    I have actually chosen not to do giveaways just cause it isn’t worth the hassle. And for me personally, my favorite blogs aren’t the ones doing giveaways. I don’t want to offend anyone but it is my experience that the blogs I’ve visited that are pushing the giveaways are often trying very hard to monetize (sponsor me posts…receiving free goods…sponsored posts). I don’t think anything is wrong with monetizing (I’m a huge fan of big mag like blogs where the bloggers are living their dreams) but the smaller blogs who are fishing for money with ok content are a turnoff for me. I don’t mind sponsors on your side bar but I don’t like when the seeking money becomes part of your content section.

    Sorry…kind of off tangent but for a good reason 🙂 I love your site, I’ll be baaaaccck.

    • Sara January 1, 2012 at 8:56 pm - Reply

      Hi Tania,

      Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. Monetization is a challenge that many struggle with. Giveaways are often used as part of a monetization strategy, but in my opinion shouldn’t be. It’s a way for people to amass emails so they can then spam them with junk.

      As you’ve mentioned, giveaways are a lot of work. Many don’t want to do the work to do it right. I see it as an issue that is brewing under the surface that will soon begin to have a bigger impact on the blogging community. Too many people doing it wrong and many unhappy participants make it ripe for intervention.

      In the end, though, good content will always bring people back.

  37. […] into the giveaway!} i have formatted all my giveaways like this for awhile now after reading this article on the legality of […]

  38. A.J. Dub January 10, 2012 at 8:29 am - Reply

    Thanks! I will be sharing a link to this on my blog.

  39. Sweepstakes and Contest Rules for Bloggers and Brands | Crackerjack Marketing at StephanieSchwab.com January 24, 2012 at 7:02 am - Reply

    […] state guidelines. My friend Sara Hawkins, an attorney-turned-blogger, has written a handy post with key points of the sweepstakes guidelines. Based on Sara’s post, this really great post from the Keller and Heckman law firm, and my own […]

  40. susan February 4, 2012 at 8:39 am - Reply

    This is so helpful, Sara. Recently a cooking catalog reached out to me and asked if I would like to do a giveaway for two of their products. After going back and forth several times, I agreed. I was asked to use specific links and link back to the product that I was promoting. After the post was up, the rep emailed me and asked me to use two more links that were mentioned in the original email. She did not say specifically where she wanted the links, yet with that said, I did include the links.
    When the giveaway was over and I had randomly picked a winner, I emailed her and let her know that I had had a winner. I never heard from her. I have emailed her 5 times and still no word and no product.

    I am embarrassed. I had 146 comment and promoted the product on good faith. I am still hoping for a positive outcome, but part of me has given up. Is there anything that I could do to assist them in honoring their committment?

    Thanks for your time!

    • FieryRed June 20, 2015 at 3:22 pm - Reply

      If I were you, I’d post about how shady and deceptive that cooking catalog company was with you.

  41. Facebook Giveaway and Promotion Rules - SNAP! Creativity February 17, 2012 at 1:01 am - Reply

    […] The Work at Home Wife has a great post on general giveaway and sweeptsakes rules. I’d also recommend this article from Saving for Someday. […]

  42. Maureen Chapman February 22, 2012 at 1:47 am - Reply

    Excellent information!

  43. Ilze February 28, 2012 at 4:45 am - Reply

    Wow ! What a great post. I did not even think about ANY of these issues before…. I have a small blog and hosted a tiny giveaway or two, but this gives me a whole new take on it !!! Will definitely refer back to your blog and browse around for more wisdom ! Thanks a lot.

  44. Lost_Arkitekt March 2, 2012 at 12:59 pm - Reply

    Sara,

    This article is very interesting. Although not necessarily in your blog category, my business partner and I are trying to design a sofa prototype. We were thinking of using group funding (a la Kickstarter), but we didn’t want to keep the sofa. Our thoughts would be to give the sofa away at random to someone that helped fund the project. However, from what I’ve read, this is a raffle and illegal.

    Someone suggested that we sell other items in the different contribution levels, and with that purchase the person is entered into a giveaway for the sofa. For instance, if a person buys a logo postcard for $10, we will enter them in the giveaway. If they buy a t-shirt at $50, we will enter their name 5 times in the giveaway. Purchases have to be made by such and such a date.

    Is this type of scenario legal?

    Thanks so much for your help.

    • Sara March 3, 2012 at 10:09 am - Reply

      Lost Arkitekt,

      Unless you have a ‘no purchase necessary ‘ (read free/no consideration to you) entry option what you describe is not a sweepstakes and is more along the lines of a lottery/raffle, both of which are regulated by state laws.

      If you want to require a purchase to enter, you should consult with an attorney.

  45. Monetization Boot Camp Day 5: Advanced Topics & Wrap-Up | Homestead Host March 2, 2012 at 9:51 pm - Reply

    […] according to some laws. Here is a comprehensive article and excellent discussion about that very topic. As we understand it (and please realize we are not attorneys or legal experts,) most giveaways […]

  46. […] Blog Law—Is Your Giveaway Legal? (Sara @ Saving For Someday; easy to understand) […]

  47. Lucille Brown March 8, 2012 at 8:54 am - Reply

    Hi,

    Thanks for taking the time to put this together. I work for a non-profit and have spoken extensively with paypal regarding the give-aways and fundraisers that our families do. There are exceptions to what you’ve listed. Our families and advocates use our non-profit’s paypal address for tax deductible donations to their give-aways. Those who use their own personal accounts via chip-in, as long as their fundraiser is still linked to their family being on our website (in other words, an advocate can NOT do this but a family, who’s profile is listed on our website CAN) and the money raised is going toward their adoption costs, even those are protected by the laws and exceptions for non-profits. We have the information from paypal on our family sponsorship program blog and the actual verbage came directly from paypal so those aren’t my words, they are paypal’s. I am mentioning this because some uneducated persons have quoted your blog post in comments to our families and advocates to harass and intimidate them.

    • Sara March 8, 2012 at 4:09 pm - Reply

      Lucille,

      Thank you for your comment. What paypal chooses to do/allow does not make something legal. Paypal is NOT the government, despite what many might think.

      Just because paypal permits your families to put a donation button on their website does not mean the family can legally run a ‘giveaway’ which requires making a donation to your organization. It’s one thing for YOUR organization to do such a promotion (which would be called a raffle and would still require registration in the states in which it is run), and something totally different for a private individual to run a promotion in which they themselves give something away but require a donation be made to receive an entry.

      If one of the families that your organization is supporting wants to host a sweepstakes to raise money for their own private needs then they need to comply with all state and federal laws regarding such a promotion. If, however, YOUR organization wants to have a promotion by which funds are raised and earmarked for certain families that’s something completely different and should still comply with all state and federal laws regarding fundraising by designated charitable organization.

      Please DO NOT confuse your organization’s fundraising with private individuals hosting a promotion that requires monetary consideration be provided as the only means of entry.

      Finally, referring to people as ‘uneducated’ because they have quoted my post is misguided and judgmental. Because they disagree with how families working with your organization are raising funds does not make them uneducated.

      I would suggest your organization speak with a lawyer rather than rely on what Paypal says. Paypal DOES NOT represent your interests and can not give you legal advice.

      • FieryRed June 20, 2015 at 3:31 pm - Reply

        Very well said. Especially since Paypal is likely breaking several laws, itself.

  48. […] money, I highly suggest looking into a lawyer just to cover any problems that might pop up: Quora, Saving for Someday, The Work at Home Wife, When Pigs […]

  49. Lucille Brown March 9, 2012 at 4:54 am - Reply

    Actually, we have spoken both to our lawyers and paypal’s. We have no reason to worry at all. The guidelines for giveaways we give our families are absolutely 100% legally sound. They don’t have raffles or sweepstakes, btw. But paypal does have a LOT of laws they have to follow. There is too high of a potential for fraud using paypal and they are highly scrutinised. Our government here in the UK do not even allow some of the same things paypal US is allowed. So, no, they aren’t just flying by the seat of their trousers. Also, the term uneducated was in reference to the laws regarding non profits and giveaways, not a general statement about them. But no we don’t expect paypal to represent our interests. However, in the EU, if they weren’t following strict legal guidelines, they would be shut down. I do appreciate your concern for our organisation and if I hadn’t fully explored this both two years ago and again this year with our attorney and paypal, your post would definitely have motivated me to do such.

    • Sara March 9, 2012 at 7:50 am - Reply

      Lucille,

      I am not here to provide you or your families legal advice, but rather to present factual legal information about running/sponsoring sweepstakes/contests/lotteries in the US. Regardless of where one physically is located, running/sponsoring a sweepstakes/contest/lottery aimed at US residents must comply with US laws.

      You reference you’re in the UK, however, your organization is listed as a 501(c)(3) entity, incorporated in the state of Georgia, with a US-based address. As such, you are well-aware that your organization is subject to all US laws.

      Plain and simple, a private US Citizen (whether an individual or legal corporate entity) asking people to give money as the means of entering a promotion to win a prize drawn at random must comply with US laws regarding sweepstakes.

      Sweepstakes are not charitable fundraisers and should not be treated as such.

      As for Paypal following a host of laws, that is true. However, Paypal is not a law firm and is not likely giving legal advice to anyone regarding anything. At best, in the US, Paypal is ensuring it is in compliance with laws relating to banking/secure transactions and other financial-services laws. Complying with laws to limit fraud in the transfer of funds is not the same as complying with laws related to games of chance.

      Don’t get me wrong, I think supporting families wishing to adopt children (especially children with known special needs) is wonderful. I’m sure many agree. I get that your families are not lawyers and not likely in a position to spend money on a lawyer to advise them on legal matters relating to fundraising/giveaways when they’re trying to gather funds to adopt a child. That, however, does not exempt them from being legally compliant if they choose to put up a website and ask people to donate to their cause as the sole means of entering to win a randomly drawn prize.

      What many may be taking exception to is being forced to donate money to an organization as the sole means of entering what legally appears to be a sweepstakes run in the US.

      • Scott Lawing June 5, 2017 at 6:11 pm - Reply

        I’m envisioning a contest with the prize being a set of electric guitar pickups. The judging criterion will be the quality of an example video demonstration that the entrant has done. Entry will be by posting said video(s) to a Facebook announcement. Judging will include the weight of both expert opinion from my company and the number of likes each video post receives. I’d like to require that the winner(s) then have to make at least two demo videos with the pickups they receive in the contest within a specified time frame. Can I do something like this?

        • Sara Hawkins July 3, 2017 at 10:42 am - Reply

          Once someone received a prize, it’s difficult to take it back if they don’t do what you want. There could be a contractual relationship requiring that the winner do something with the prize, but from a marketing perspective what would the public opinion be if the company then sued the prize winner because the winner didn’t post a few videos of them using the prize? Even if it is legal to make these requests of the winner, and I’m not saying if it is or isn’t because there are multiple factors that need to be evaluated, would it be worth it to go after the winner if they didn’t follow through? In addition, the winner would need to then comply with FTC-required disclosure (and the company sponsor should require it) so those videos would require that the winner disclose the relationship.

  50. Lucille Brown March 9, 2012 at 9:30 am - Reply

    We are legally compliant. I wasn’t stating the organisation I work for is UK based, just citing an example regarding Paypal. And no, paypal is not who we go to for legal advice regarding our giveaways. They are not sweepstakes and our guidelines we give our families do NOT say that the sole way to enter is by a donation. They have non-monetary ways to enter. As well, our organisation provides grants to the families who are part of our family sponsorship program so the laws are not exclusive to 501(c)3 but also laws pertaining to grants. I appreciate that you understand most of the laws pertaining to raffles etc. We are 100% compliant and the state we are registered in has checked us as well as our attorney. Again, I appreciate your concern, but we are 100% compliant in this.

    • Sara March 9, 2012 at 11:02 am - Reply

      You can advise your supporters and families however you wish. I am not your lawyer, am not providing you or your organization with legal advice and have no relationship with you or your organization.

      I have provided information in my post based on existing federal and state laws and I stand by what I have written. You can disagree with what I’ve written, but that doesn’t make me wrong.

  51. Adam March 14, 2012 at 6:10 pm - Reply

    I occasionally do giveaways, but I always say I will choose winners “at whim” and clarify there is nothing random at all about it. In fact, the last one I did I made people write short emails about how much they would like to score the book I was giving away. I didn’t collect the addresses or do anything with them. I just read the emails, chose the one I found the most amusing and then contacted the winner on the cutoff date I’d announced.

    Any thoughts on the legality of that? I always do it that way to sidestep any possible legal issues. I assume you can’t be held accountable for a non-random giveaway when you explicitly say you’re arbitrarily choosing who scores what you’re giving away.

    • Sara March 14, 2012 at 10:41 pm - Reply

      Adam, what you’re describing sounds more like a contest rather than a sweepstakes. While you indicate you’re selecting ‘at whim’, the criteria seems more like you’re selecting based on what most entertains you. There are separate rules that pertain to contests since there is some judging criteria rather than, like a sweepstakes, random selection.

      You can be liable for violating laws relating to contests, especially if you indicate the winner is chosen arbitrarily but in fact there is some basis to selection. You may want to seek legal advice on the way you’re running your giveaways now to ensure you’re complying with contest laws.

  52. Anne April 4, 2012 at 3:32 pm - Reply

    Hello Sara,

    This is a well-researched and extremely valuable post for bloggers and businesses who regularly promote their brand. As you said, no one wants to become a test case! My only question is, what sources or links can you provide for the laws that govern US sweepstakes? I’m often asked by fellow bloggers why we can’t do this or that when running giveaways, and I point them to your post, but then they want links, documents, etc. that actually cite some of the key laws.

    Thanks!

    • Sara April 4, 2012 at 5:10 pm - Reply

      Anne, many of the definitions used for sweepstakes and contests are taken from the Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act of 1999 which can be found at Title 39 of the US Code. In addition, the FTC is charged with policing deceptive trade practices and that includes sweepstakes and contests.

      In addition, nearly every state has laws that both define the various types of prize promotions and may have further regulations that restrict certain types of practices or contain requirements for bonding or registration.

      You would need to go to each state’s statutes to find their laws.

      General definitional information regarding what a sweepstakes/contest/lottery is has been set forth in both case law as well as through various federal laws. There is no written set of law which specifically address sweepstakes/contests with regard to the internet. The FTC has taken up most of the enforcement and has used the Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act as a guideline. A good reference is the section about Contests and Sweepstakes in the FTC Small Business Guide – http://business.ftc.gov/documents/bus35-advertising-faqs-guide-small-business

      Definitional information for sweepstakes and contests can be found at 39 USC 3001(k). While this applies to the US Mails, it is generally used as the base of federal laws defining these two types of prize promotions.

      Like many laws relating to marketing practices, how they are translated to the internet has not been further codified. Instead, we rely on best practices as well as laws regarding other forms of marketing to interpret how to best translate those same marketing practices to the internet.

      Since the barrier to entry for starting a website and hosting a prize promotion is very low, many people undertake it without much regard to the laws that regulate such practices in the off-line world. Unfortunately, the laws relating to such practices in the off-line world are then applied to the online usage and may catch the website owner by surprise.

  53. Julie M. April 11, 2012 at 4:54 am - Reply

    Here is my question…when running a sweepstakes for a non-profit organization, is it legal to have one of the methods of entry be donating money to the charity? For example if you donate any sum of money to this specific charity you will get 25 extra entries? I am just wondering a good way to get people more entries if they donate any sum of money to the non-profit! It gives more motivation. But at the same time, I want to make sure it is legal! Any ideas on how to raise money through a sweepstakes that makes it more appealing to donate money?

    Thanks for the great article!!

    • Sara April 12, 2012 at 11:18 pm - Reply

      Hello Julie, excellent question. I think others might have the same concern.

      Not for profit organizations still must comply with all the regular sweepstakes and contest laws. However, certain not for profit organizations receive payment/donations in exchange for entries into a giveaway. While this would normally be considered a lottery, each state has special laws to allow for non profits to do this. It is not for every non profit and must be authorized by the state agency tasked with managing these types of promotions. Regardless of whether the non profit would be authorized to accept money in exchange for an entry, it can not, however, give more entries to someone who gives money than to those who do not if you want to have an option to donate or not donate.

      If the not for profit is ineligible under state law to conduct a “legal lottery” then the organization has to follow the standard rules for sweepstakes. In that case, the organization can provide entry into the sweepstakes to those who donate. The organization MUST provide a means to enter that does not require purchase/compensation. But if they also want to give an entry to donors then the rules must be such that donors do not get an unequally beneficial number of entries as compared to those who do not make a purchase/donate.

  54. Kelsie Harris April 25, 2012 at 12:49 am - Reply

    Thank you for the helpful information. I try to stay informed on the topic so I’m not breaking any laws without realizing it. It’s a lot to learn about since laws vary state to state country to country and it’s hard to know starting out how to run a sweepstakes without breaking any laws since a lot of bloggers are running contests and sweepstakes illegally, probably without knowing what the laws are.

    • Sara April 25, 2012 at 1:33 pm - Reply

      Kelsie, thank you for visiting and for your comment. I wanted to share the information to help bloggers. I know it is a lot of information, but I hope it gives you the confidence to make changes that will protect you and your blog.

  55. Stella May 2, 2012 at 4:42 pm - Reply

    Where do you find a complaint form? I have been to the FCC and FTC website and I don’t know what form to use. I would like to complain about a website that is requiring a person to purchase at least 10$ to be in the random give-a-way drawing. If you purchase 50$ you get 5 chances in the prizes that are to be given away. I have emailed the owner, but they will not email me back.

    • Sara May 2, 2012 at 7:48 pm - Reply

      Stella, the FTC website that discussed consumer complaints can be found at: https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/

      The FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection would be the section to address your complaint.

      You may also wish to contact the Attorney General in your state as well as in the state where the promotion is being conducted (if you know it).

      The FCC complaint form is: http://esupport.fcc.gov/complaints.htm
      The FCC does not usually handle complaints regarding online promotional activities.

  56. If Emily Posted: On Asking for Likes and Other Forms of Self-Promotion | Alexandra Wrote May 4, 2012 at 12:02 am - Reply

    […] RULE: In general, you can’t ask for likes or followers as grounds for entry in a giveaway on your blog. Your giveaway could face potential legal ramifications if you do. (Please check out this great piece by attorney Sara Hawkins to learn more.) […]

  57. Becky May 11, 2012 at 1:16 pm - Reply

    Thanks so much for a super informative post. This is a great help to all bloggers.

    • Sara May 13, 2012 at 5:23 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Becky. I’m glad you found the information helpful.

      ~ Sara

  58. Valerie Johnson May 16, 2012 at 9:03 pm - Reply

    I’m curious to know if there is any new updates to any of the laws you posted in the original post?

    • Sara May 16, 2012 at 9:19 pm - Reply

      Valerie,

      There have been no updates as of today (5/16/2012) to the laws that govern sweepstakes. There have been bills proposed regarding internet gaming, but those go beyond sweepstakes and contests. If there are new laws or changes I will post them, as I think this is a very important topic.

      Thank you,
      Sara

  59. Jordyn May 22, 2012 at 3:23 pm - Reply

    Hi Sara,

    Thanks for the article. I recently won a $250 gift card from a blog giveaway. They listed my name on the blog as a winner and emailed me to tell me that I won. I responded with my address, and they said they would send me the prize. Unfortunately, the prize never came, and all of my efforts to contact the organization have gone ignored. Can you tell me what my rights are in this case. Is there an agency I could notify? The blogger lives in Utah and I live in Texas.

    Thanks!

    • Sara May 23, 2012 at 4:54 pm - Reply

      Jordyn,

      I have replied to you by email.

      ~ Sara

      • Sarah March 17, 2015 at 9:31 am - Reply

        I came to ask the same question. I have the same situation. I won a $20 prize and sent my info. The blogger did not respond to my initial message. Then weeks later, when I e-mailed again, they said the post office was busy and they would send it the following week. Two more weeks have passed and still no info and no prize.

        • Sara Hawkins April 8, 2015 at 12:55 am - Reply

          If you have not received your prize in a timely manner, especially after communication with the blogger hosting/sponsoring the giveaway you may wish to contact your state Attorney General’s Consumer Affairs office to find out if they can assist you.

  60. Renee May 26, 2012 at 8:17 pm - Reply

    This question is a bit different in that I am the contestant. A company posted a contest on their FB wall announcing a $50 prize to their Top Fan for the month. I have “worked” for 3-1/2 wks promoting their site, posting to their wall, “liking,” and “sharing.” Now they have announced 1 person out of their top 10 fans will be chosen for the $50 prize, not their Top Fan. This is the last week of the contest, too. I have about twice as many points as the 2nd place person, so I was certain expecting to win. When I messaged them, they said it had been an error…an error that they are now trying to correct when the month is almost over??? It looks like they also removed their May 1st post announcing the contest, but I stayed one step ahead & took a photo of it as well as copied & pasted it into a Word document. Let me add that there are no official rules anywhere. They have also tried saying that one could only win one prize every 90 days for either of their 2 companies. I won a $25 prize from their other company in April, same kind of Top Fan promo. This rule is not stated anywhere on the 2 Facebook pages or the 2 company websites. Whom should I contact if they do not award me the prize on May 31st?

  61. Joel August 16, 2012 at 2:49 pm - Reply

    One further question:

    Many giveaways now use PunchTab, which is just a way for people to sign up for the giveaway. So that initial entry is open to anyone and is free. Then, within PunchTab, you can like a Facebook page, follow a twitter account, share it on your FB wall, etc., all for additional entries. This is an app on Facebook, so I believe it follows their guidelines. Is it legal? The initial entry is without consideration, but more can be had with consideration. I’m still unclear on that.

    Following up on that, if someone were to do all of the above, and then offer additional entries for buying a product, is that still legal? I.e., no purchase is necessary to get in the contest, but you can increase chances with purchasing something (or other considerations, like liking a page, etc). Is this legal? I read through all of the above, but I’m still not clear. And we’re talking about a giveaway under $200, so the other constraints don’t apply.

    Thanks!

    • Sara August 20, 2012 at 10:54 am - Reply

      I have not checked out PunchTab personally so I can’t speak to exactly what they do. I have used other apps/widgets that interface with social media and social network platforms for the purpose of giveaways/promotions (sweepstakes/contests). To say they’re legal would be beyond my ability here within this blog. While an initial entry without consideration is good, there is much more to what can trip up a sponsors/promoter of a sweepstakes/contest when it comes to legalities. One of the biggest issues I continue to see is a lack of Official Rules. Furthermore, there is often no limitation on entries for those under 18, non-US residents or residents of jurisdictions where the sweepstakes/contest may be prohibited.

      The method of entry is but one criteria in evaluating whether a sweepstakes is complying with all laws and regulations.

      As for having an option where an entry is given if there were a purchase/donation, that is not prohibited so long as (1) there is a “free” method of entry and (2) an entry where consideration is provided does not yield an disproportionate amount of entries. This is where I see many fall short. Both the purchase/compensated and non-purchase/free method of entry must provide the exact same chances of winning.

      Sweepstakes/Contest rules & laws apply regardless of the value of the prize.

      • Rena (An Ordinary Housewife) September 2, 2013 at 3:01 pm - Reply

        Hi Sara. Thanks for your helpful info. Do all entry options have to have the same value? For example, if I had one mandatory option worth 4 points that only required clicking “enter”, then an optional entry to comment also worth 4 points and facebook, twitter follows, etc as optional entries for 1 point each, would this be acceptable, since no entry method would be worth more than the mandatory method?
        Also, it would be great if you made another post (or updated this one) to discuss some of the things addressed in the comments. I sometimes have offers to run giveaways from companies that want to violate certain rules (like mandatory comments or likes) so I would love to have a link to direct them to so they know there is a real reason for not doing things this way.

  62. Annette G. September 16, 2012 at 4:08 pm - Reply

    Oh my! I am very worried as I have many questions about this issue and want to make sure I follow both federal and state laws. Please help clarify if what I have done is a lottery, sweepstakes, or giveaway. If possible, advise on what to do to make it legal if it is not. I am in the process of turning my son’s website into a non profit and I make donations often to my son’s charity. A charity in which I liaison for is also a non profit that I umbrella and fund raise. Here is my Facebook post to make it easier for you to understand my situation:

    Just to be CLEAR: This is NOT a sweepstakes, NOT a lottery, NOT a contest, NOR is it a giveaway!
    RULES:
    MUST be 18 or older and live and operate your CHD org in the United States
    No Purchase Necessary,
    Start date Sept. 11th
    End date once all calendars are gone.
    The $100 donation was already going to go to Alex’s Heart Fund at CSMC along with a portion of the proceeds from the CHD Awareness Calendar. I am simply taking that $100 from Alex’s donation and donating it to a CHD org OR CHD family in desperate financial need. How am I choosing the CHD org OR CHD Family in desperate financial need? By your comments of your choice for your CHD org OR CHD family in desperate financial need. The one commented the most will be the one receiving the donation.

    Here is my original post:
    From every CHD Awareness Calendar 2013 SOLD (I will DONATE .25 cents a total of $50.00) if all 200 calendars sell to the the winner of the most needed CHD org or CHD Family commented below. This is In HONOR of ALL our ANGELS and CHD SURVIVORS: I ask this of you: Comment below the name on your favorite CHD organization or a known CHD Family in desperate financial need. This means that not only will proceeds from the calendar go to Alex’s Heart Fund at CSMC but all to a needed CHD org or CHD Family.

    Right after I received a .25 cent match per calendar sold by an individual wanting to help and making the total donation $100.

    Thanks!

    • Sara September 18, 2012 at 5:27 pm - Reply

      First, let me state that all individuals and entities must comply with state and federal laws pertaining to sweepstakes, contests and lotteries. Non-profit organization do have some special exemptions, so check with your state if you are a licensed non-profit.

      Selling at item and taking a portion of the proceeds is not a game of chance or skill and therefore is not a sweepstakes or contest. A sweepstakes has two of the following – a prize, chance or consideration. In buying something that is clearly consideration, so to be a sweepstakes it could have a prize w/o a random chance or a winner can be chosen by chance and given nothing. In your situation, what does the winner get? Is there even a “winner”?

      To be a contest the selection criteria has to be based on some merit. If the selection process of the winner is either random (sweepstakes/lottery) or merit based (contest), you’d have to examine the other parts of the promotion (prize and consideration) to determine what type of promotion you’re running, if you are even running a promotion.

      The rules regarding tax deductibility of donation is a separate topic, beyond the scope of this article.

  63. Annette G. September 16, 2012 at 4:14 pm - Reply

    Correction on the bottom meant to say …but also not all.

    Sorry.

  64. Brittany aka Pretty Handy Girl September 20, 2012 at 5:53 pm - Reply

    Sara, first I want to say thank you for this post. I attended your talk at Blissdom and took notes, but this really helped me understand the legal ramifications of running a sweepstake as a blogger.

    One question I had was if you have several different prizes (i.e. Grand, 1st, 2nd and 3rd winners) can they each be less than $5,000 and not have to be filed with NY & FL. After reading this article with Florida’s top sweepstakes regulator, she says that even if you had a monthly winner, each winning $1,000, that the total prizes for that one contest has to total less than $5,000 in order to avoid filing with FL and posting bond.

    Here is the article: http://www.thompsoncoburn.com/news-and-information/sweepstakes-law-blog/blog/12-06-26/an-exclusive-interview-with-florida-s-top-sweepstakes-regulator-%E2%80%93-part-two.aspx

    • Sara September 21, 2012 at 10:01 pm - Reply

      Brittany,

      Thanks for the link to the article, I have read it and while I find it clear I realize not everyone is a lawyer and it can be confusing.

      If one sweepstakes has prizes that in the aggregate total $5,000 or more, the appropriate filing and bonding will need to be done in FL & NY or those states must be excluded.

      Think of it this way, if you were to write official rules would all the prizes included in those rules total $5,000 or more. If a sweepstakes ends and all the prizes distributed have a value less than $5,000 no filing or bonding would be required. However, if there are interim prizes given out before the final ending date and the distribution of some type of final or grand prize, the value of all those prizes need to be added up and counted toward the $5,000 threshhold.

      Hope this helps. If you have other questions, let me know. I’m sure this information will be helpful to others as well.

  65. […] with companies, because when you don’t you are hurting other bloggers. Then there is some legal dispute over how to run a “sweepstakes”.  sigh. It is one big murky […]

  66. Donna October 9, 2012 at 12:04 pm - Reply

    Sara,

    Thank you for this post, I’ve been thinking about doing a giveaway (sweepstakes) and came across your site. It was very helpful and well outlined!

    Thank you again,
    Donna

  67. How bloggers can avoid getting sued November 1, 2012 at 11:18 am - Reply

    […] Is your blog giveaway legal? (Sara at Saving for Someday, holds a graduate degree in business and is a licensed attorney) […]

  68. Blogging and the Law: Part 1 of 2 November 2, 2012 at 10:20 am - Reply

    […] engagement, but they can put you on the wrong side of the law. (Sara, of Saving for Someday has a long explanation of what you can and cannot do with giveaways. If giveaways are a regular part of your blogging, I […]

  69. jamie November 3, 2012 at 6:11 am - Reply

    I have a cousin that has a nice property in Belize Central America and want to see if it is possible to do a drawing here in US for $ a chance to win title to it?
    I have a lot of questions, maybe you have another solution?

  70. […] handled. I’m not an expert and every state is different. Look into it. *Update: I found this very specific blog post on Giveaways via Kirsten. 8. Sweepstakes are random winners, and a contest is based on skill. Refer to No. 7. […]

  71. Cheryl November 14, 2012 at 10:06 am - Reply

    Thanks again for this post Sara, I refer to it all the time, and thanks for adding the part about the “group” giveaways many bloggers are doing. (for the record, I don’t care for those – many of them require you like all of the bloggers FB pages and your “entry” is saying Yes I like all of the pages – so they feel that is a free entry)

    I have a question – are you aware of anyone getting into any trouble for running illegal blog giveaways? the reaction I get from most people is “I’m doing what everyone else is doing and no one gets in trouble”

    I’m also I’m still struggling with the “free entry” is simply leaving a blog comment ok for a free entry if you don’t have to register to leave a comment. if not, I’m not sure how a blogger can have a “free entry”. So I’m hoping a blog comment is ok.

    • Sara November 14, 2012 at 1:55 pm - Reply

      Hi Cheryl,

      I can’t tell you how many times I hear “But, so-and-so doesn’t do it like this.”, as if that’s a reason not to follow the law. I do know that bloggers have been reported to search engines and hosting companies for not complying with legal terms for sweepstakes and contests or hosting illegal lotteries b/c they don’t know what the law is. I also know that Facebook has disabled pages because of complaints.

      Each state has its own laws regarding sweepstakes/contests/lotteries which makes it very difficult to police all of these promotions. The state Attorney General, like the FTC, doesn’t have enough headcount to scour the internet looking for violators. Often, their focus in on the big players and those organizations/people/companies that are receiving multiple complaints.

      Big companies are fully compliant because it’s potentially a huge liability if they’re found to conduct a sweepstakes or contest without legal compliance. Small companies often don’t even know these type of laws actually do exist and don’t take the time to find out.

      When it comes to bloggers/social media professional/website owners many don’t take the time to find out if there are laws they need to comply with. Many of them don’t even read the TOS for the social media platforms they use and so they violate those TOS. If they’re not even going to read what’s in front of them that they specifically click “Agree” to it’s no wonder they conduct promotions that aren’t compliant. Even worse is that when it’s brought to their attention that there are legal requirements, many of these online content providers thumb their nose at the notion they have to follow these laws.

      I don’t personally know of any bloggers who have been held liable for violating state sweepstakes/contest/lottery laws. States do investigate complaints, but with limited resources they’re likely looking for bigger issues (money laundering/drugs). I do know that several bloggers are being investigated for collecting “donation” for a chance to win iPads. However, that operation scammed tens of thousands of dollars from thousands of people. It shows that it’s really a scope issue.

      However, as the sweepstakes culture takes off (I notice TLC did a pilot for something like Extreme Sweepers or something along that line) and professional sweepstakes entrants hit more and more blogs they’ll be looking for the legal compliance or they’ll be complaining.

      Regarding the question about the “free entry”, that’s becoming more and more challenging to define. Historically, the requirement was that no purchase was necessary. This was to ensure there was no “compensation” element. Unfortunately, for bloggers and brands we don’t know what a court would use as “compensation”. Clearly, “likes” and “followers” and “subscribers” are valuable. The other criteria is that the method of entry for a sweepstakes doesn’t require an entrant to do a lot of work. That too is something we don’t know. More and more there are online widgets that make it easy to “like” “follow” “pin” or stumble or tumble or what have you. At some point it becomes splitting hairs to justify that one type of entry is or is not too hard. The fact remains that there should be a single method of entry that is as simple as possible. That “free entry” you mention should be (1) the easiest possible AND (2) not provide “compensation” to the sponsor.

      Finally, if alternative methods of entry want to be provided those methods CAN NOT give a greater likelihood of winning. I see that all the time that you get multiple entries if you pin or blog or buy. It’s the multiple violations and the continuous disregard of the law that’s going to get someone in trouble.

      A blog comment is often the easiest AND does not individually confer “compensation”. And I’m not talking about comments that require going to a 3rd party site and finding a product or service then going back to the original blog. That’s clearly conferring “compensation” (traffic) to the sponsor or administrator. And, you’re right, it’s best not to require registration of any type. Collecting the most basic of information so you can contact the winner should be all that is necessary.

      Thank you, again, Cheryl for commenting. I hope I have clarified your questions. ~ Sara

      • Cheryl November 14, 2012 at 2:03 pm - Reply

        Thanks Sara you are so awesome for taking the time for such a through reply!!!

        • Gale March 28, 2013 at 5:27 pm - Reply

          “Finally, if alternative methods of entry want to be provided those methods CAN NOT give a greater likelihood of winning. I see that all the time that you get multiple entries if you pin or blog or buy. It’s the multiple violations and the continuous disregard of the law that’s going to get someone in trouble.”

          But there are TONS of corporate sweepstakes where you have a “free” entry method (sending in a post card and such) but get a better chance of winning by buying more products where “the winning entry” may be found under the lid and such. These have been going on for years–and if they were illegal I’m sure would not continue (those companies can afford lawyers to make sure they’re legal). How can those be legal, and “extra” entries which don’t require you to buy anything be illegal?

          And if offering more extra entries for some things, or offering extra entries AT ALL were illegal, than I would assume Rafflecopter would have gotten in trouble now for facilitating illegal activity for thousands of blogs over the past few years. I mean, maybe it’s naive to assume they have lawyers that look over their stuff, and that since they have features that CAN ONLY BE USED to give people extra entries for entering giveaways, that they would have checked to see if this is legal. I’m not saying that nothing that you could do on Rafflecopter could possibly be illegal, but since “extra entries” our built in, you would think if it were illegal they would have gotten in trouble it by now and taken that ability out of their system.

          • Gale March 28, 2013 at 5:37 pm

            Sara, I just wanted to follow up with an apology since I can’t go back and delete or change my answer. First, I wanted to say I really appreciate you taking the time to share your expertise. I didn’t realize at first that I was replying to the same person who authored the article, and would have said that first. I read over what I wrote and it sounds terribly antagonistic and I didn’t mean it that way. I just don’t understand how “extra entries” could be illegal in one case and not in another.

          • Sara March 28, 2013 at 8:37 pm

            Gale, thank you for your comment. I will attempt to address your concerns individually.

            1. If a corporation runs a sweepstakes where there is not an equal chance of winning regardless of the method of entry, they are violating the law. Where there are “game pieces” and “instant win” type prizes on products that are purchased, the “free entry” may require sending a SASE to obtain a game piece and the odds of winning from that game piece will provide an equal likelihood of winning prizes. The “free entry” does not require purchase (compensation) and, if audited, must offer the same odds of winning as if a piece is obtained through purchase.

            2. It is NOT legal to have a sweepstakes where any method of entry provides a greater (or less) chance of winning. It may be assumed that a company would safe keep certain pieces, but if that were to be true the legal consequences would be quite severe.

            3. Rafflecopter is one tool for running a sweepstakes. Your statement that “Rafflecopter would have gotten in trouble” assumes that Rafflecopter is the sponsor of the sweepstakes. In fact, that is one of the biggest problems with using a 3rd party platform and not understanding its limitations. Rafflecopter (and others like it) is a facilitator. The fact a 3rd party app/widget has functionality that would create an illegal sweepstakes should be very disconcerting for those who use it. Yes, Rafflecopter (and others like it) could be used as an online platform for running a sweepstakes that violates the law. It is not, however, the platform’s responsibility to ensure users are legally compliant. I believe, these platforms specifically state it is the users responsibility to comply with all legalities. Unfortunately, it does appear many believe these apps/widgets are what is needed to make their sweepstakes or contest legally compliant.

  72. Sara - My Merry Messy Life November 15, 2012 at 4:23 pm - Reply

    Hi Sara, from another Sara! Great article with tons of info. I see you are an attorney, which makes your content more credible, but what are your sources for these facts?

    • Sara November 15, 2012 at 6:21 pm - Reply

      Hi Sara, I’m not sure what facts you’re specifically talking about but with regard to the state and federal laws that govern sweepstakes. contests and lotteries I have done research over the years of all state laws that speak to conducting these types of promotions as well as the FTC Rules and Guidelines that govern direct to consumer promotions, which includes both sweepstakes and contests. The US Gov’t does not regulate lotteries since we have no national lottery and those are done at the state level.

      In addition, there has been clarification over the years from courts as to what exactly is meant by “compensation” and “skill test”.

      There are no courts, state legislatures, or FTC rulings that have specifically updated the laws or definitions with respect to advances in technology. With regard to technology that has created entry-method changes that were not contemplated by the laws/guidelines I use my knowledge of the laws and court opinions to provide what I think would maintain the spirit of those laws and guidelines.

      Hope this helps.

      ~ Sara Hawkins

  73. Liz November 24, 2012 at 6:08 am - Reply

    Good info, keep up the good work. Trying to do a sweepstakes right now but unsure the best method and don’t want to do it wrong. I see people on facebook all the time violating the rules.

  74. […] Do you know if your contest or giveaway is legal? There are many rules governing contests, sweepstakes, and giveaways. Are you ready to adhere to them? Make sure you have clear contest guidelines, and stick to them yourself. You are legally responsible for what you do. […]

  75. […] according to some laws. Here is a comprehensive article and excellent discussion about that very topic. As we understand it (and please realize we are not attorneys or legal experts,) most giveaways […]

  76. Nikki December 6, 2012 at 7:34 pm - Reply

    I have been using Rafflecopter for Giveaways. Mine is setup as follows: Write a comment on “your favorite way to use this” or “what your summer vacations plans are” blahblah blah and you are entered to randomly win the prize. I am reading your post over and over again and find it excellent, however, I am still having trouble determining if this is legal? Any information on Rafflecopter?
    Eek! 🙂
    Thanks in advance.

  77. Carl December 27, 2012 at 8:57 pm - Reply

    Hi Sara,
    Thanks for the great info. I’ll be sure to keep your writings in mind when and if I should decide to add a contest or sweepstakes. Your insight is very valuable and I plan to visit the appropriate GOV. sites to complete my research.

    • Sara December 29, 2012 at 10:22 am - Reply

      Thanks for stopping by, Carl. Glad you found the info helpful. ~ Sara

  78. Jose January 3, 2013 at 8:31 am - Reply

    This was very helpful, thank you.

    Jose

  79. […] like how Sara from Saving for Someday defines the differences between Sweepstakes, Contests and a […]

  80. […] If you want to keep reading up on the exciting world of promotions law, other people have written some more “professional”-type blog posts – you can probably find them if your typing finger works, but here are a couple leads: http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com/digital-marketing/sweepstakes-contests-bloggers/ and http://www.savingforsomeday.com/blog-law-is-your-giveaway-legal/. […]

  81. Vincci March 4, 2013 at 7:34 pm - Reply

    Very helpful! Especially the list of what to include on the sweepstakes. Just added one for our blog.

  82. Catherine March 5, 2013 at 3:00 pm - Reply

    Sara,

    This is great information–thank you!

    One question: what if, for example, I was giving identical prizes away to the first 100 respondents? (“while supplies last”) Since this removes the randomness aspect, does this fall under the category of a contest?

    Thank you!

    • Sara March 6, 2013 at 11:07 pm - Reply

      Catherine, what you’re describing does not neatly fit into either a sweepstakes or contest. However, there are some legal concerns that do need to be addressed with this type of promotion. ~ Sara

      • Ron April 30, 2014 at 10:00 am - Reply

        Hi Sara, I know it’s an old topic, could you briefly elaborate on what legal concerns/issues would be at issue in such a promotion where the giveaways are limited to the first X amount of people who respond (or comment on a post, etc.)?

        • Sara May 5, 2014 at 3:50 pm - Reply

          Limited Entry sweepstakes are legal but need to be clearly spelled out in the rules.

  83. […] to add: just found something useful http://www.savingforsomeday.com/blog-law-is-your-giveaway-legal/You might also like:Manage Your Affiliate Links With Ease – Another Reason to Convert to […]

  84. Submitted March 11, 2013 at 10:22 pm - Reply

    Well Sara, I sat down this evening to do a quick Google search to track down some good ideas for a twitter contest giveaway. 4 hrs later & after midnight, I have read through your page/comments twice and started cross referencing with other sites…sigh. I must commend you on an excellent post that is very well put together and easy to read for the legal layman (me). I had no idea something like a simple T Shirt giveaway would have so many legal requirements to consider…deeper sigh.

    So, if you would be so kind to indulge my questions, I would greatly appreciate your expert opinion.

    First, I am not a blogger however much of what you said above applies to my situation so I am hoping you can still provide some insight. I would like to run a twitter only contest – no blog and no facebook. This is where I am confused on how to “qualify” contest registrants. I initially wanted to go with followers as a way to register but based on your post that may be too high of a consideration? So here is what I am thinking now.

    Details on the proposed contest:
    • Signed T Shirt giveaway is free of charge
    • No purchase necessary
    • Following me is appreciated & optional
    • US residents only
    • Must be 18 years of age or older
    • Not responsible for technical outages or misuse of product.
    • Winner will have 48 hrs to respond. if they do not they will be removed from the giveaway and another will be randomly selected.

    Contest ideas:
    1. Retweet this tweet and after the time expires we will randomly select a winner from those that retweeted the tweet.
    2. Tweet using the following Hashtag (#ILoveThisContest) and after time expires we will randomly select a winner.
    3. Reply to this tweet and after time expires we will randomly select a winner.

    From what I gather that would make this a Sweepstakes, correct? I “think” what I am asking is, do any of these considerations i.e. retweet or a hashtag or a reply constitute an illegal lottery? Am I missing anything?

    One other question, is it legal for me to use someone else’s terms and conditions as a starting point? An example here: http://spilledmilkshake.com/giveaway-terms-conditions/

    Thank you so much for the public service!!
    Submitted

    • Sara March 12, 2013 at 9:31 pm - Reply

      Hello Submitted, thank you for visiting my site and reviewing my information about “giveaways”.

      A sweepstakes is a prize given away at random, for which there is no compensation received. Randomly selecting someone who tweets or retweets something to win a prize would likely be a sweepstakes, unless there are other aspects of the promotion. Use of hashtag is often incorporated for tracking purposes and search to ensure everyone who followed the rules is accounted for. Currently, there is no case law as to whether or not a tweet/retweet is consideration under the law, but there would be a very strong argument that it is not and that it is not unduly burdensome on the entrant to give rise to a stronger argument.

      I never advocate using someone else’s terms and conditions. Then again, I am a lawyer and I often deal with the fall-out of situations were a someone used another’s Official Rules (or Terms/Conditions) and something went wrong.

      Sweepstakes laws apply to anyone who is giving something away at random without Consideration (the legal kind). You don’t have to be a blogger.

      There are sweepstakes where a prize is given to a random twitter follower. I have helped companies create these. We always offer a free means of entry so that the entrant doesn’t have to follow on twitter or if they have a protected account and are unable to make it public so the organization can follow back then the person can enter in an alternative manner.

      While I can not offer you legal advice, I hope this information is helpful.

      ~ Sara

  85. […] the Facebook TOS), that is called consideration. Sara Hawkins has a good article explaining what consideration is and how to ensure your giveaways adhere to the laws that pertain to you. Here’s an important point from Sara’s article: When it comes to […]

  86. Carli March 22, 2013 at 10:30 am - Reply

    I use Rafflecopter and have different things people can choose from to do. However, I don’t say that a particular choice is the one required. After reading this, not sure if I’m okay or not. I don’t want to fall into the illegal lottery catagory.

    • Sara March 24, 2013 at 6:38 pm - Reply

      Every sweepstakes should have, as the main form of entry, the ability to enter without conferring compensation to the sponsor. While there may be multiple means of entering, each entrant should be able to enter in a way that is easy and would be not compensate the sponsor. Unfortunately, there is little guidance from the states or courts regarding what compensation means when it comes to online sweepstakes. This is a relatively new (and changing) way to run a sweepstakes so it is unclear if a “Like” or “subscribe” or “pin” is compensation. Since all of those have a value, they could be deemed compensation. However, it’s still a somewhat gray area and should be treated as such.

  87. Gale March 28, 2013 at 5:51 pm - Reply

    I’m really concerned about the “consideration” aspect. I held an event on my blog (one I’d like to repeat) to spread awareness about modern slavery where I asked people to do things like “read any of the listed articles about human trafficking” and comment with something you learned.

    If I didn’t ask them to do anything to prove they had done it…just asked them to “commit to educate themselves” on the topic of modern slavery and provide some links to some places they could learn more…but made it clear that I would not be checking to see that they did, that this was on an honor system, would that be at least more likely to be legal? (Since this sounds like a lot of these things are in somewhat grey area that “could be illegal” but “might not be.”) Thank you so much for any response you’re willing to give–and just like your article I will not take it as “legal advice.”

    • Sara March 28, 2013 at 8:49 pm - Reply

      Gale, many people as entrants to provide some “proof” that they went to the 3rd party site. However, it’s nearly impossible to verify if they did that. Maybe some people do, but as you state it’s more of an honor system.

      While I completely understand why you’d like readers to take time and read these articles about modern slavery, requiring an entrant to click to a 3rd party site, read an article then come back may be deemed “consideration” because you get value (and possibly create value for this 3rd party site). Courts have not taken up this matter so we are operating in a very gray area. However, like the “no purchase necessary” option for offline sweepstakes a simple comment may be sufficient to avoid the consideration issue. An additional entry (providing the same likelihood of winning as the “free” entry) that provides consideration may be offered only if there is a means of entering that meets the “no consideration” requirement.

      I appreciate that this is not an easy determination, especially since courts have not given guidance and we are still dealing with laws that were created for traditional off-line programs. However, as business professionals, online businesses/bloggers/brands must meet the same legal requirements or risk the consequences for non-compliance.

      Hope that helps.

      ~ Sara

      • Gale March 29, 2013 at 9:36 pm - Reply

        This does help. Thanks so much!

        • Gale April 11, 2013 at 6:54 am - Reply

          PS: I was just researching the Canadian “skill test” and, according to this article (http://contests.about.com/od/sweepstakes101/f/caskillquestion.htm) asking them a trivia question about modern slavery that would require research would actually make my giveaway legal there (since trivia questions are one way to pass the “skills test.” Hmm…

          For Americans, since asking for a comment is usually thought to be acceptable, I could simply write about modern slavery in my intro ask them to answer this question:

          “Before today did you know that there are more people in Slavery today than in any other time in history?”

          It would only require a yes or no answer, and wouldn’t require them to do any work other than reading the question, and would still spread awareness, and possibly make them want to read more of the articles I posted…and still be legal.

          I really wanted to keep this international too, because it’s an international problem…but I think I might be able to keep it at least semi-international by seeking out international bloggers willing to host a giveaway and research the laws in their own country.

          Thanks for your help.

  88. Kamlesh Kawadkar March 30, 2013 at 1:03 pm - Reply

    Wow 🙂 Great descriptive post ! i have just started a new blog & i am thinking to give a Book in a contest. Thank you for educating about this thing. I am sharing your article. Thanks.

  89. backlinks April 8, 2013 at 8:25 pm - Reply

    We are looking for advice on how to raise the amount of feedback on my own blog site, exactly how do you succeed in doing this?

  90. Maurice June 6, 2013 at 11:57 pm - Reply

    Sara,

    Thanks for the information. However, there is something that you did not talk about. What if someone was to sell a product for say $10, which would include shipping and handling. With every $10 product that is bought, the persons name, and phone number, email address etc. will be placed in a giveaway for an IPAD. Is this legal?

    • FieryRed June 20, 2015 at 4:48 pm - Reply

      Pretty sure she DID talk about that, Maurice. Read the article again. It says you have to offer a free way to enter if the winner is chosen at random.

  91. […] #2: Learn what a blogger giveaway really is…3 types of Promotions according to Sara F. Hawkins, Attorney-at-law and all around Blog Goddess. “Sweepstakes are […]

  92. How To Promote Your Blog Using Freebies | Web Revenue June 24, 2013 at 3:29 pm - Reply

    […] of Rafflecopter for my giveaways, which is Facebook complaint. Read more about the law at “Blog Law – Is Your Giveaway Legal?” by attorney Sara F. Hawkins, and subscribe to her Blog Law […]

  93. […] of Rafflecopter for my giveaways, which is Facebook complaint. Read more about the law at “Blog Law – Is Your Giveaway Legal?” by attorney Sara F. Hawkins, and subscribe to her Blog Law […]

  94. Jay Dorsey July 27, 2013 at 7:24 pm - Reply

    Great overview and thank you for the information. I wasn’t aware of the clause about the Canadian rules requiring skill.

    One question: It looks like your site descriptions (and possibly some content) is blocked by your robots.txt file. I saw the error message in the search results on google when I searched for “running an international punchtab contest” (without quotes). Your site was in the top 10 but your description was blocked with the message about robots.txt

    Is this on purpose? I just wanted to pass it along in case you weren’t aware.

    Thanks again!

    • Sara July 31, 2013 at 3:57 pm - Reply

      Jay, thank you for visiting and commenting. My site is still under development right now and will be finished soon which is why it’s not indexing. I was changing too many things and didn’t want to take a hit by the search engines.

      Glad you were able to get helpful information from my article.

      ~ Sara

  95. Joseph August 19, 2013 at 11:28 am - Reply

    Sara, thanks very much for a very helpful article and posts. I would appreciate any help you could provide on this situation:

    I would like to run a promotional contest (?) in which I require people to post a comment on my website/blog to get access to a webinar, during which I’ll give away gift certificates to the first 7 people who post correct answers to “quiz questions” I’ll be asking about the content, asked during the webinar. What are the legal issues I need to follow to be compliant for this situation?

    a) they must post a comment for access (is this a ‘consideration’? if so what do I need to do)
    b) there will be a limited number of gift certificates (7) given away, one to each of those who correctly answer a question (so it’s not random, there is a skill element). Value of $20 per gift certificate.
    c) it’s for giveaways during a webinar, which has international attendance

    Thanks very much for sharing any insights –

    Joe

  96. […] Sweepstakes, Contests & Giveaways – Laws Bloggers & Brands Need To Know […]

  97. Sweepstakes, contests & promotions — Beware the laws, rules & regulations! | Community Bank Blog September 10, 2013 at 1:32 pm - Reply

    […] Even your business blog isn’t exempt from the rules. Attorney Sara Hawkins outlines the laws bloggers and brands need to know. However, picture and video sharing site Pinterest isn’t quite as limiting, as evidenced by […]

  98. Pam Hoffman September 16, 2013 at 3:31 pm - Reply

    This is the best article/post about this topic that I have seen on the internet. I recently saw a small company offer a chance at prizes with an online purchase. As a person who enters sweeps a lot, I knew this was not legal. I posted a comment to them that their giveaway was not legal and they promptly removed my post and went on with their plan. These people do not realize that they are opening themselves up to potential legal action and hefty fines if they do not comply with the law. I tweeted your link to them with the hopes that the next giveaway they have, they will open it up to the general public w/out a purchase required. Thanks for your efforts. Pam

    • Sara September 16, 2013 at 11:41 pm - Reply

      Pam, thank you for your kind comment and for sharing my article with a company that can use some guidance. I do see many small businesses that don’t understand that there are laws that govern their “giveaways”. I hope that by writing about the legal issues it will help them and their customers. ~ Sara

  99. Anne Sweden September 30, 2013 at 6:22 am - Reply

    HI Sarah. What a well-researched and informative post, especially for bloggers who regularly run promotions! I just have one question: if you are a US blogger and want to open a giveaway to both US and Canada, must you include the skills test on your entry form? I was curious about this because then you would be requiring Americans to submit to Canadian law. Is this skills test then required only when your giveaway is exclusively open to Canada? Thanks! Anne

  100. Jim September 30, 2013 at 4:45 pm - Reply

    Sara,

    Thank you so much for this informative article and all the time you have spent answering questions in the comments. I came here because I have a relatively new website and I was thinking of hosting a promotion on Facebook to increase awareness of my “brand.” I had absolutely no idea there were so many legal ramifications to what I thought was going to be a simple task!

    After reading all of this, I’m not sure how I am going to proceed but I am certain you saved me from running afoul of the law. For that as well, I thank you very much!

  101. kate September 30, 2013 at 5:14 pm - Reply

    Hi Sarah,

    thank you thank you thank you for writing this post. I absolutely want to play by the rules and follow every last regulation.

    I want to host a giveaway to raise money for our adoption. Adoptions are extremely expensive and I knew I might could raise a good bit by doing a blog giveaway. Several other blogs have donated ad space and several Etsy shops have donated items they make. I live in MS so I’m wondering if you know anything about the laws and regulations. I tried researching but honestly I don’t understand anything I’m reading.

    basically I wanted the to donate $5 to have they name put in for the giveaway. I realize that sounds a lot like a lottery though. They would be chosen at random & they would receive a prize…..

    would it be better for me to just make that an option. Like say “any one can enter” then make it an option to get other entries by sharing about the giveaway or donating.

    If i need to I can even say “donations are welcome but not required and will not up your chances, they will simply just help us bring our son home.”

    I’ve contacted our CPA but he’s been out of town.

    any information would be helpful! Thank you so much for writing this post!!

    • kate September 30, 2013 at 5:21 pm - Reply

      oh and one more thing. We had planned on setting up an account on pure charity.com. people can donate through their site – it’s tax deductible and sends the money straight to our adoption agency. Didn’t know if this would make a difference on anything or something you would need to know. thanks!

  102. Arun Prasath October 2, 2013 at 12:05 am - Reply

    Great info. Sara. I am planning to conduct a software giveaway on my blog. Now i know everything to be done to make my giveaway a successful one 🙂

  103. GIVEAWAY: Win a Copy of the Hilarious Book, The Memoirs of a Hamster! 4 Winners! - Harvard Homemaker October 3, 2013 at 11:38 am - Reply

    […] something by chance; you have to “do something” that involves some type of skill.  (Find more information about that here.)  So, this time I’ve found a way to allow you to enter, […]

  104. Valerie October 5, 2013 at 8:19 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much for this post! So, so helpful!
    I have a question – are “virtual” sweepstakes (for advertising space), under the same laws? I host regular prize sweepstakes and have them open to US residents only, but if I am offering space in my sidebar to bloggers (not businesses), do you think that even counts since no one is actually receiving anything? I’d like to keep that open worldwide.
    Thanks!

    • FieryRed June 20, 2015 at 5:28 pm - Reply

      Sounds to me, based on this article, that the ad space would count as a prize. (I mean, it’s of value, yes?)

  105. Julie October 11, 2013 at 7:36 pm - Reply

    Great post. I found your site through a link on a post on pinkheelspinktruck.com’s blog. Quick question. Do the same rules apply for a giveaway if I wanted to include Canadian and other International residents when the prize is an e-gift card?

    • Sara October 11, 2013 at 8:29 pm - Reply

      Canada regulations for sweepstakes are very similar to US rules for contests, so that makes it a bit more challenging. Also, Canada has regulations regarding the need for rules in both English and French due to Quebec’s French-language prominence. Each country has their own requirements so having a truly international promotion can be a challenge, especially if you do not write in that country’s native language.

      It’s not the ease of prize delivery that dictates the rules. And, unfortunately, the rules for online promotions are just the rule for traditional marketing/media and do not take in to account the new and easy means of prize delivery over the internet.

  106. Andrew October 28, 2013 at 3:20 pm - Reply

    Can a company change the end date of a contest after it has started? I have been playing an game in which the makers of the game announced the top 8 players with the highest score in the game at the end of October would win a cash prize. The 1st place prize is $5,000, and they go down from there, the total amount being given away combined between all top 8 is suppose to be $8,000. Just today, a couple days prior to the announced end date, they have since changed the rules and are now saying the contest has been extended to the end of November. Is that legal for them to do? I am currently in top 8 based on their most recent leaderboard update, and I think I have a good shot of maintaining that status through the next few days, but I have some doubt I could hold that position for another month.

    • Andrew October 28, 2013 at 3:26 pm - Reply

      I should probably clarify it is a game company based in the US, in the state of Kentucky to be specific.

    • Sara October 28, 2013 at 4:57 pm - Reply

      Andrew, the general rule is that a sponsor or administrator of a sweepstakes or contest can not change the start or end date once the promotion has begun. There are exceptions, but there needs to be extenuating circumstances and not just a business or marketing need. This is especially true if the promotion was required to be bonded in Florida and New York (or Rhode Island). If the promotion has prizes in excess of $5,000 and allow entry by NY and FL residents then both states would require a registration filing and bond. Both states require notification of start and end dates, as well as other information.

      There is some argument that if the official rules say they can change the rules then it’s permissible. However, a change in end date of a contest may be too material to merit change based solely on a generic provision in the official rules. If the official rules do not have language permitting changes then they’re likely violating their own contract with entrants.

      And while the sponsor and/or administrator may be in one state, the contest rules would have to comply with the rules for every state where a resident is permitted entry.

      If you feel there may be legal violations you should contact your state Attorney General as well as the Kentucky Attorney General to examine what, if any, consumer protections exist.

      • Andrew October 28, 2013 at 6:09 pm - Reply

        Thanks for the quick reply.

  107. What You Need To Know Using Google Plus For Your Online Giveaway | V3 Kansas City Integrated Marketing and Social Media Agency November 25, 2013 at 8:47 am - Reply

    […] use Google Plus for your contest or sweepstakes. I’m not making this up. If you’re running an online sweepstakes or contest and have Google+ as a means of entry you are violating Google+ Policies and Principles. […]

  108. […] Sweepstakes, Contests & Giveaways – Laws Bloggers & Brands Need to Know […]

  109. Questions Answered: Blog Giveaways - Blogging on the Side January 29, 2014 at 6:44 am - Reply

    […] A blog giveaway is an item or service offered by a blog to its readers with the chance to win it.  Often there is a mandatory entry required along with a few ways to earn bonus entries.  A true random giveaway is a sweepstakes, with nothing required to enter.  You may want to be sure your giveaway is not a contest or lottery based on the LAW. […]

  110. Nadine March 5, 2014 at 2:50 pm - Reply

    Hi Sara! Thanks for this very informative article! I still have a question though. What about items like World of Warcraft trading card packs, which may or may not contain a “loot card” which is a card that gives a prize? The prize is electronic, meaning that if you receive one of these special cards in a pack of trading cards (the special loot card will replace a card that would normally be in the pack), you need to scratch off the covering on the card to reveal a claim code, then input the code on either a website or in the World of Warcraft game itself to claim your prize. The prize can be a special mount or pet, or different in-game toys that are all electronic, and only usable inside the game world. You have to purchase a pack of cards to have a (small) chance to get a special loot card, so the entry isn’t free, though it is random.

    Are there separate rules that govern this type of giveaway? Is it technically a sweepstakes? I’m assuming it’s not a lottery, or they wouldn’t be doing it!

    Thanks for any insight you can provide!

    • Sara March 6, 2014 at 10:43 pm - Reply

      What you describe is not a sweepstakes. There is no entry mechanism. Every purchaser is buying a pack of cards. In some packs there is what is like a “mystery” card. What someone is buying is a pack of unknown cards. The manufacturer is providing a card with a code that unlocks some type of bonus or special card.

      The company is not sponsoring a game of chance. There are different laws that would govern these type of promotional activities, but they don’t fall under gaming regulations for sweepstakes, contests, or lotteries.

  111. Nadine March 7, 2014 at 7:39 am - Reply

    Awesome–thanks for the quick reply Sara, and thank you also for writing here and sharing your knowledge!

  112. McCargar Works Promotion | The Sparks Solution March 28, 2014 at 10:55 pm - Reply

    […] Well, here is a great resource for our readers to check out as they consider running any promotions to ensure that the $20 iTunes gift card they are about to giveaway, doesn’t bring the entire company down via a lawsuit from an angry entrant. Sara F Hawkins Blog […]

  113. tara pittman April 3, 2014 at 10:55 am - Reply

    Thanks for the info has a lot of good to know things

  114. Matt April 7, 2014 at 6:12 pm - Reply

    Hi, Sara. Thank you not only for posting the original piece but also for your many, many follow up posts.

    Here’s the reason I googled and found your page.

    In January, a company that I had followed that makes a product I like but cannot afford started a contest. The ask was to make a video explaining why you should get a free product and one winner would be selected to receive the product. Additionally, you had to like them on Facebook, post your video to your own Facebook timeline and allow them to repost it to their Facebook and YouTube presences. Consideration, check. Time and effort, check. The rules stated that they would choose the winner based on what their executives thought of the videos as well as how many Likes the videos received on Facebook. Contest, not Sweepstakes.

    While there was no declared end date, the rules did state that they would award the prize after they received 500 videos. Though the rules stated that they would work with the winner to determine which version of the product they gave as the prize, based on needs, the model they pictured in the rules was for sale for greater than $5,000.

    After a few weeks, there were only a few videos posted. I wrote them on Facebook and said that if they were really waiting for 500 videos it didn’t seem like they were really going to give something away at this pace. They responded that they would give it away, please send the video, they gave away five last year. Several weeks later I wrote and asked if the deadline had passed or if there was still time and they responded that there was time (though when I dug deeper, I saw that they had define a different deadline date to another commenter, which had already passed, most likely trying to create some urgency around sending in videos). Long story short, I entered.

    A bit over three weeks ago, they posted that they would announce the winner that night and asked for any videos that had not been sent in. After a few days I wrote them an email and asked who had won. Two days after that they posted that they had a clear favorite but that new videos were coming in now and they asked which their Facebook audience liked the best. They did not post any of the new videos that came in, so this was an odd ask.

    It’s been another 17 days since their last post and they have made no announcement. It’s obvious that they were disappointed in the number of videos they got and clear that they are reluctant to give the product away having received significantly less promotional value than they had hoped for.

    My question is this: To whom do I complain? Do I complain to the AG in my home state (NY), the state in which the company operates (PA), to the FTC? I sympathize with the lack of response they got, but I put significant effort and actual dollars into making the video I submitted and I feel quite wronged that the efforts of myself and the other contestants did not lead to an honest outcome (if there was one better than mine or more Liked, so be it). Rules, as they say, are rules and the company did not even follow their own rules, whether or not they were legally compliant.

    Thanks in advance for your answer.

    • Sara April 9, 2014 at 12:13 pm - Reply

      IF you have a complaint, it is best to file your concern with all the agencies that could have jurisdiction as you never know which one(s) may be able to help you more quickly. In addition, by filing with all governing agencies you assure that your concerns are connect with others who may also have filed complaints. The more people who file complaints, the greater the likelihood the agency will take action.

  115. Modelgasboats.com April 27, 2014 at 9:22 pm - Reply

    […] what I found with a few clicks of the Mouse.. backyard Lawyers beware! http://sarafhawkins.com/blog-law-is-…iveaway-legal/ Reply With […]

  116. Jeannie April 30, 2014 at 10:39 am - Reply

    Ok so as this is currently set up, can I open this “sweepstakes” to Americans? http://tinyurl.com/nyvgxg5 <—- rafflecopter sweepstakes on my facebook page..

    • Sara May 1, 2014 at 10:26 pm - Reply

      Jeannie, I can’t see you facebook page. In Canada, games of pure chance are prohibited. In the US, a Sweepstakes is a game of pure chance so you can’t have a sweepstakes in the US and Canada without requiring Canadians to meet the required skill test under Canada law. In addition, there are additional requirements if Quebec is included. Perhaps this information will help since I have no way to know what you are doing. ~ Sara

  117. […] Is Your giveaway Legal? […]

  118. Heather May 6, 2014 at 4:23 pm - Reply

    Hello Sara,
    I’m very impressed with your blog and your willingness to continue to answer questions 3 yrs later. — It just goes to show how important your blog has been to a lot of people. I find the idea of a skills test very intriguing. I have a science based website, and I like the idea of asking visitors to answer 5 science questions to enter a sweepstakes for a free prize. My question is — if I randomly choose the winner only from the pool of visitors that answer all 5 science questions correctly, is it still a sweepstakes? It’s not entirely merit based, but it’s not entirely random either.

    Regardless, I’ll still try to think of a way to for free entry — mail me a postcard with 5 facts about your favorite scientist, or something like that. My website has ads along the side frame, so I’m assuming that forcing visitors to coming to my website to submit an entry could be construed as consideration correct?

  119. marke May 13, 2014 at 12:15 pm - Reply

    Great article, Sara. Interesting point about (legal) consideration – I haven’t seen that mentioned on other sites and it’s a tricky issue since there don’t seem to be any clear guidelines.

    If a blogger is using the names and emails of entrants to promote products to those entrants after the sweepstakes has ended (even with the consent of the entrant) do you think there could be a valid argument that (legal) consideration is involved since an email list is a valuable asset to a blogger?

    Most, if not all, official rules state something to the effect that the sweepstakes is void where prohibited. How does one know if the sweepstakes is prohibited in a specific state? Or, stated another way, how does one know that the winner of the sweepstakes isn’t from a state where the sweepstakes is prohibited by law?

    • Sara May 15, 2014 at 9:27 am - Reply

      Marke, the legal concerns regarding legal consideration in the digital age have not been fully defined. It is quite possible that many types of entry methods would be deemed legal consideration, if challenged. The fact that dollar values are placed on social media followers, subscribers, shares, etc. clearly indicate that there is value in these.

      How does one know that a winner of a sweepstakes isn’t from a state where the sweepstakes is prohibited by law? It would be up to the sponsor and/or administrator to verify this information. A winner’s list is required to be made available but the information provided is not standardized. As such, if there is concern and the prize is sufficiently valuable hiring legal counsel may be necessary.

  120. How to Run a Giveaway Contest? | The Blogger BabesThe Blogger Babes May 14, 2014 at 9:01 am - Reply

    […] Do you organize promotions and giveaways on your blog? Are you aware of the U.S. laws that cover this type of off- and online contests? Make sure to read them. […]

  121. Kim May 23, 2014 at 7:05 am - Reply

    Can a sweepstakes be called a “Lottery” as a promotional tool. there is no consideration, but hourly drawings of numbers are involved and contestants search for the numbers, find a winning number and win a prize. We’d like to call it a Lotto in advertising as a slogan.
    thank you!

    • Sara May 23, 2014 at 2:23 pm - Reply

      Kim,

      Referring to a sweepstakes as a lottery could raise concerns regarding the validity of a promotion. Lotteries are highly regulated and using the word may cause regulatory agencies to investigate the promotion.

  122. Patrick - omnicontests May 26, 2014 at 5:12 am - Reply

    First of all, I’d like to thankful for such an informative blog. I think it’s the first blog wherein i got the descriptive info about sweepstakes, contests, giveaways, its govt. rules, tax, bonding and lot more.

  123. Jana May 26, 2014 at 2:01 pm - Reply

    Thanks for this info! Question–is it legal to enter a giveaway you’ve contributed to financially? For instance, if I was hosting a group giveaway, could I legally allow my co-hosts to enter and possibly win the giveaway themselves even if they pitched in money for the prize?

    • Sara May 28, 2014 at 1:51 pm - Reply

      Jana, allowing contest/sweepstakes sponsors and/or administrators (as well as their employees, agents, or relatives) is not strictly prohibited. However, because the laws relating to sweepstakes and contests are purposefully vague there are many other laws that fill in the gaps. Contests and sweepstakes are not governed solely by one set of laws, but, rather, it is an interwoven set of laws related to fair business practices that also apply.

      It is the general practice among professional sweepstakes sponsors and administrators that employees, officers, agents, and family members are prohibited from entering the game. This is done because even if everything is on the up-and-up, the appearance of impropriety may lead to legal and/or criminal liability.

      Hope this helps,
      Sara

  124. Holly Storm-Burge June 7, 2014 at 11:13 am - Reply

    I have a question and maybe you can answer?

    I just unsubscribed from a blog newsletter I didn’t subscribe to. Under feedback, I clicked the box that says I did not subscribe. I then got a snotty email from the blogger saying that I subscribed via her giveaway and as proof, she copy/pasted the entry from the rafflecopter…a tweet entry. So I tweeted on her giveaway and she harvested my email and added it to her newsletter list. Is this illegal???

    • Sara June 7, 2014 at 1:16 pm - Reply

      Holly, While there are no specific laws with regarding to email subscriptions within the Sweepstakes law field there are many laws that apply to email marketing. The CAN-SPAM laws are key for those who wish to obtain emails for commercial marketing purposes. Implicit email opt-in is often part of a sweepstakes or contest, despite being troublesome. Just because Rafflecopter allows something doesn’t mean it’s legal. It’s up to each user to ensure they are using a product or service legally and in compliance with an platform terms of service. Every sweepstakes is required to have Official Rules. Without Official Rules, there are both state and federal laws that may be violated. In addition, without Official Rules an entrant may not be properly informed of any implicit opt-in agreement which could raise liability. Even if there is no violation of law, email marketing best practices suggest a verified opt-in to avoid situations such as that which you mentioned.

  125. Kim Anderson June 9, 2014 at 6:27 am - Reply

    I’m glad you mentioned the 3rd party thing because I’ve been wondering if “likes” and such could be interpreted as “consideration”. I really appreciate your blog and that you are out there helping people in the blogging world navigate all the laws! What would you say is the least sticky way to run a contest? Do you have any 3rd party recommendations that keep it simple and perfectly legal? I really just want to run something that I offer to my email people who are already signed up. Any info would be great!

  126. Sarah Wight June 18, 2014 at 1:10 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much for this post! Great info. However, my audience is mostly high school students, do you know where I could get information on having a sweepstakes/contest for minors?

    • Sara June 19, 2014 at 2:49 pm - Reply

      Sarah, sweepstakes and contest involving minors need to also comply with COPPA with regard to marketing to children. In addition, these programs also need to consider issues related to children being unable to enter into binding agreements without parental consent. It’s a mish-mash of laws, so to speak, that are woven together to protect children as opposed to a clear set of laws specifically focused on sweepstakes/contests aimed at children.

      Hope this helps, Sara

  127. […] you get started, read everything you can on blog giveaways and the law (I recommend you start with this article from Sara F. Hawkins and this one from For Dummies) to be sure you understand what you can and […]

  128. evadzelarayan2013 July 1, 2014 at 8:01 pm - Reply

    Hello,
    I’ve read many of these comments and replies and they have been very helpful; yet I haven’t found the answer to my question. A lottery must have three of the following in order to be considered a lottery, from what I’ve learned here and online: a prize, a purchase, and winning is by chance/random. If one of these three is missing then it is not considered a lottery anymore correct? Therefore if a creative contest requires a purchase to enter, a prize for the winner, and winners are chosen by the creators of the contest, is it still a lottery? My questions are actually two: 1) Is what I described considered a lottery still or not anymore since winners are not chosen at random? 2) Whether or not it is a lottery, is it illegal?

    Your response is highly appreciated! Thank You!

    • Sara Hawkins July 1, 2014 at 8:43 pm - Reply

      There are 3 types of promotions: Sweepstakes, Contests, and Lotteries. A lottery will have all 3 elements – prize, purchase/consideration, random selection. As stated in the article, lotteries are highly regulated and are illegal unless authorized by the government. A sweepstakes and a contest will have 1 or 2 of the elements. A sweepstakes: prize & random selection. A contest: prize and may or may not have the entrant make a purchase/provide consideration but the winner will always be chosen based on some skill.

      Hope this helps.

      • evadzelarayan2013 July 3, 2014 at 6:54 pm - Reply

        Thank you for your prompt response Sara! Based on your reply, I’m able to determine that what I am describing is not a lottery. You definitely helped me and answered my question. Anther question arises, if a creative contest requires a purchase to enter, a prize for the winner, and winners are chosen by the creators of the contest, is this legal? Is it legal to charge for a contest entry on a small Facebook page, for example?

        Thanks!
        Eva

        • FieryRed June 20, 2015 at 6:20 pm - Reply

          You just asked the exact same question again.

  129. What You Need to Know About Blogging Giveaways (Or Why Mine are Only Open to US Residents) | Atlanta Mom of Three July 9, 2014 at 5:19 am - Reply

    […] prompted me to look into things further, but I honestly can’t remember what it was. I found a great article by Sarah F. Hawkins in which she explains EVERYTHING I needed to know. I realized that, depending […]

  130. […] Conclusion: Title it a Giveaway, but remember to explain that it is a sweepstakes, by definition, in the rules. Thanks to Sarah Hawkins for breaking it all down. […]

  131. Jeff July 18, 2014 at 4:30 pm - Reply

    Are there any legal rules regarding something simply titled a “giveaway”? (e.g. Is it illegal to require a purchase to be eligible to get the prize?)

    • FieryRed June 20, 2015 at 6:21 pm - Reply

      Did you even read the article? Calling it by a different name doesn’t change what it is.

  132. Shawn September 2, 2014 at 10:39 pm - Reply

    We are starting a new site and we want to give the 1st customer one year free. It is mandatory that they sign up for an account and use a coupon code: ONEYEARFREE.

    Is it really a giveaway? Isn’t it like a 100% off sale for one person?

    • passdrow September 3, 2014 at 11:53 am - Reply

      Just an attitude from someone who has seen these “first customer only” giveaways is

      How do you avoid your other customers wondering whether the actual winner was someone that your boss picked to give that free product to? How do you make it appear 100% fair to everyone.

      I remember sites that promised that the first 100 people who logged on after a certain time would win, but i logged in two minutes early, and all 100 prizes had already been given away.

      I like what some snail mailers do, they advertise in big print that the first person who returns the card will win the prize, but in the fine print they state that if more than one person returns the card before a certain date, the winner will be chosen at random from all cards received before that date.

      ANYWAY … if you require that they purchase a product before they enter your contest, then it is illegal by my understanding of the rules, because there is an entry fee involved, the cost of that product. Instead, why don’t you give the winner that product with the prize, or you could try to say that the prize will be “one year free of such-and-such with the purchase of that-and-that.” That might at least be on safer ground than requiring that all entrants purchase the product.

  133. Mario September 15, 2014 at 2:20 pm - Reply

    Hello Sara,

    First, incredible follow-through with your answers to everyone’s questions. It must take some time for you to maintain this blog. Kudos.

    That being said, I have some questions of my own….

    I have an online store where we sell solar garden/security lights. I would like to offer one of our products (worth $40 on my website) for $1. Now, this would go for 30 days where I would gather “entries” for the light. Would this be considered a “sweepstakes” or a “lottery”. Since we already sell these items and have a reseller’s permit to do so, would gathering entries for a drawing at the end of the 30 days be within my boundaries as an online retailer (thus, not being considered as a lottery and all the hassle that goes with that)? If it is considered a lottery, do I just need to contact the State Board of Equalization to get permission? I would post a video of the drawing on our website and YouTube (to give credibility to the entries and show that there is an actual winner).

    Thanks for any and all information you may have. I very much appreciate it. 🙂

    -Mario

    By the way, I see that the California Lottery is no longer posting its drawing results videos. Now that looks suspicious.

    • FieryRed June 20, 2015 at 6:26 pm - Reply

      I am not a lawyer, I just have good reading comprehension. It sounds to me like your “prize” would be a $39 discount on that light, so you would just need to make sure you offer a free way to enter the drawing (which, if it’s truly a drawing, is random selection, making it a sweepstakes).

  134. Raging Rochelle September 22, 2014 at 11:03 am - Reply

    Sara,

    I understand your advice isn’t legal (but wise and informed) and I have no one else to ask a question about a “Lottery”. One part of a Company I work for is working on a “Giveaway”, but looking at it, I see it’s a “Lottery”. My question is by looking quickly at it. Does it look “safe” to you? http://unlikelyheroes.com/25-days/

    I would greatly appreciate whatever feedback you can give me.

    Best Regards, R

    • Sara Hawkins September 24, 2014 at 11:29 am - Reply

      The following is intended for information purposes only and is not offered as legal advice, nor does it create an attorney/client relationship.

      Rochelle,

      Thank you for your question, I think it is a common question businesses have. If a winner a chosen through a random draw you have (in the US) either a sweepstakes or a lottery (and raffles are a type of lottery and dealt with often by separate laws. As you know, lotteries are highly regulated and, for the most part, are prohibited by the general public. You would need to examine the key difference that sets a sweepstakes apart from a lottery – consideration. In this day, even though many consumer promotion laws have not been updated to take into account technology, consideration is much more than just a purchase. But, if a purchase is the only means of becoming an eligible participant in a random drawing for a prize this would meet the definition of a lottery (likely against the law for a commercial business) and not that of a sweepstakes (the most common type of consumer prize promotion for commercial businesses).

      Hope this helps, Sara

  135. lagent September 26, 2014 at 11:41 am - Reply

    Excellent post..

  136. […] a self-published author and you’re thinking about doing this promo thing called a giveaway and you think it’s easy and shiny and … it’s not. It’s really not. Not if […]

  137. Jessica Hubbard (@Sassygalshops) October 27, 2014 at 6:02 pm - Reply

    I am a “NEW ” blogger. and the only “mandatory” entry I now do is the email entry. All other are now optional. Yet, I have been spdisturbed when entering other giveaways at the amount of websites I have to visit to enter. They are MANDATORY entries and you can’t even unlock the other forms of entry unless undo that. Most of the time it’s the bloggers own site is they r just trying to get more “Page hits” and it bugs the CRAP out of me that they are violating the rules!! Is this not a violation?

  138. Den October 28, 2014 at 7:04 pm - Reply

    HI.
    I recently won a sweepstakes grand prize. They paid up on 3 of the 4 items promised in the drawing.
    I’ve inquired about the 4th item ($500 shopping spree) but feel like they just blow me off. I was told that they didn’t even know about the 4th item. The email I received from them clearly lists all 4 items. I forwarded their email back to them to show them they offered all 4 items. I’m in NV and they’re in NH.
    Aren’t they obligated to pay up on all the items promised?

    Thanks for your blog…
    Den

    • hungrybyteman October 28, 2014 at 11:43 pm - Reply

      Hi, Den,

      I’m not a lawyer, but I have a suggestion: If that group ran a proper sweepstakes, they should have had a link that led to a page with all the official rules. If so, read those rules, if you can still get to them, and see exactly what they say. The official rules would trump what might be misinterpreted on an invitation page or entry page.

      But this is only an idea. My advice is free and it’s worth what you pay for it.

      John

  139. Lindsay October 31, 2014 at 11:00 am - Reply

    Excellent article!! I work for an Canadian organic baby food company and would like to include Quebec residents in our Facebook sweepstakes(?). The prizes are always product (pouches, bars, ricecakes) between 50$-100$ in value. The winners are always chosen at random. I’m looking for the guidelines on how to legally include our francohone fans 🙂

  140. Randi P November 20, 2014 at 12:17 pm - Reply

    I appreciate the help with all the guidance and advice. Can I ask a question about once the winner is chosen. Can we put stipulations in the giveaway terms regarding the response terms. Ie. Response must include all information listed and more than just an address included in the signature otherwise considered void? I am having issues with professional sweepers only responding with their address and nothing else. They are not even reading what information is needed besides an address let alone sending a real personal response.

    • Sara Hawkins November 28, 2014 at 5:48 pm - Reply

      Randi, Official Rule can include anything that is legal. If the potential winner must supply certain information to verify their eligibility that can be in the official rules. When it comes to verifying winners, it can be a challenge. But if the rules require that specific information be provided and it is not, then a potential winner can be disqualified. Winner verification is often a tricky part because an administrator/sponsor often may not have the time to spend sending multiple emails back and forth to get the information needed.

      • Gp February 6, 2017 at 12:59 pm - Reply

        Is it legal for the company to request money of any kind prior to delivering a prize? I was asked for money to purchase a gold stamp prior to prize delivery, they said it was refundable do you know anything about this?

        • Sara Hawkins February 6, 2017 at 11:08 pm - Reply

          While there may be instances where a prize winner will need to pay for something prior to obtaining the prize, the FTC suggests being skeptical if you’re required to make a purchase to claim a prize or pay a refundable fee to receive a prize.

  141. Jack November 28, 2014 at 5:13 am - Reply

    An instructive post. People to really know who they want to reach and why or else, they’ll have no way to know what they’re trying to achieve. People need to hear this and have it drilled in their brains..
    Thanks for sharing this great article.

  142. […] Figure out whether you are running a giveaway or a lottery […]

  143. […] can read more about running online competitions here, here and here. Working with our lawyer on this project was an eye opening experience and we recommend […]

  144. Tech Tuesday: Blog Giveaway No-No's - Texas Women Bloggers February 24, 2015 at 7:01 am - Reply

    […] Sweepstakes, Contests & Giveaways – Laws Bloggers & Brands Need to Know […]

  145. Alan B.MacDonald, REALTOR® April 2, 2015 at 2:59 pm - Reply

    Sara,

    Are there any considerations, restrictions or risks, around giveaways in terms of brand rights of the owner of a brand product, being exercised by the owner to discourage use of their product? In other words I’ve purchased a brand product and I want to give it away using my Twitter account. Obviously I’m trying to promote my brand through this exercise.

    • Sara Hawkins April 8, 2015 at 12:42 am - Reply

      Alan,

      If the brand is not the sponsor there should be some type of disclaimer in the Official Rules stating that fact.

  146. MN Visions (@MNVisions) May 26, 2015 at 4:32 pm - Reply

    Thank you for all this information! This is exactly what I’ve been looking for. There are so many different rules/laws and not a place which has it all.

  147. intermountainppa June 4, 2015 at 11:20 am - Reply

    Hi Sara, thank you for this insightful post…quite a discussion for being 4+ years old! I wonder if you might answer a general question as to why employees/family members, etc. are largely excluded from eligibility. Thanks!

    • Sara Hawkins June 20, 2015 at 3:54 pm - Reply

      That’s a great question! employees, family, etc. are usually excluded due to conflict of interest and issues of fairness. While a sweepstakes or contest may be totally on the up-and-up, the appearance of impropriety can be a costly matter if participants and/or the government believe the promotion is not run in a fair manner. This is why anyone having a personal or business relationship with the sponsor or administrator are prohibited from participating in the contest or sweepstakes.

  148. 10 Terms to Delete from Your Blogger Outreach Emails - Type-A Parent June 8, 2015 at 5:45 am - Reply

    […] I feel like I shouldn’t even have to say this, but unfortunately I do still see it. No bloggers want to promote your company via blog posts and so on for a chance to get paid for the work. It’s insulting. I feel like it’s illegal. It sure sounds a lot like consideration to me. See this great post by Sara Hawkins on giveaway laws. […]

  149. Lee June 8, 2015 at 11:51 am - Reply

    This was very helpful. I was about to do a customer survey that would entice entries by putting them (those who completed survey) into a drawing for a chessboard set we made here at our facilities. Our customers are from all around the world, so I understand from above 1. This is a ‘chance’ contest and therefore falls under Sweepstakes? 2. since our customer base is worldwide there are legal complications that we would need to be aware of from country to country?

  150. Garrett June 15, 2015 at 12:18 pm - Reply

    Quick question – i’m looking to create a type of ‘review club’ for my company. What this would entail is that we would provide 95% off coupons for some of our products at various online retailers including Amazon. In order to be in the club – the person would promise to review the product at the retailer it was purchased at. Since this is not a complete giveaway, are there legal ramifications that I should be aware of?

  151. How About A Contest? | Never Less Than Everything June 28, 2015 at 6:52 pm - Reply

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  152. Pauline July 7, 2015 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much for this post. I was wondering what the issues surrounding contests are. I want to run a contest that will get customers to submit photos and the person with the most likes will win a product that is valued at <$500. Are there any difficulties or legal implications that I should be aware of before running this contest?

    This will be conducted through an outside app to be used on Facebook so that it will comply with Facebook regulations. Also it is offered to U.S residents. Do you know if there are any restrictions across the U.S that I should be aware of for this type of contest?

  153. Thank you so much for this informative article! I was searching for giveaway provisions and I’m glad I found you–and I, too, am amazed the conversation is still going four years later!

    I have a question about extra entries. The basic means of entering a sweepstakes needs to be free (click the button or comment on the blog post.) You’ve mentioned having things like Liking on Facebook be an extra, optional entry and cautioned that it cannot “yield a disproportionate amount of entries.” Now, somebody who comments on the blog and Likes on facebook now has two entries–but that’s okay so long as I’m not offering them two or five extra entries for the Like, right? They can be entered as many times as I have options for, so long as each entry equals only one shot at the prize?

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

    • Sara Hawkins July 16, 2015 at 12:06 pm - Reply

      Eileen,

      You are correct that as long as each entry has the same value (i.e., comment = 1 entry; tweet = 1 entry; FB like = 1 entry) that aspect of the sweepstakes is compliant. It’s situations were sponsors/administrators offer different values to different means of entry when the laws are violated. A sweepstakes should never have entry methods with varying value (i.e., comment = 1 entry; pin = 2 entries; newsletter subscribe = 5 entries). That type of sweepstakes is clearly in violation of state and federal sweepstakes laws and guidelines.

  154. […] Sara F. Hawkins: Sweepstakes, Contests, & Giveaways- Laws Bloggers & Brands Need to Know Katy Widrick: Do I Have to Disclose […]

  155. Web Hosting Sky » Tips to Make Sweepstakes Work for You July 30, 2015 at 6:32 am - Reply

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  156. Sarah Meyer August 11, 2015 at 10:06 pm - Reply

    Thanks Sara for the wonderful information. Well drafted and articulate post.

  157. johnhutchens1 August 18, 2015 at 11:22 pm - Reply

    I have a question as an entrant to sweepstakes hosted on blogs. When a blog has optional entries for extra entries into the drawing ,but block you from those optional entries due to religious beliefs or gender or refuse to allow a comment because you are of a different gender etc is that legal? These entries are not mandatory but do offer a better chance at winning if completed.

    • Sara Hawkins August 23, 2015 at 10:27 am - Reply

      Interesting questions. Optional entries are just that, optional. A sweepstakes’ Official Rules is a contractual relationship between the Sponsor/Administrator and the participant. Unless a violation of law, a sponsor or administrator can limit their promotion to whomever they wish. While few may actually address religious beliefs or gender in their Official Rules, depending on the situation it may not pose any legal issue. This is a complex question that would need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Unfortunately, there is no universally-applicable answer.

  158. […] Chance to win. I feel like I shouldn’t even have to say this, but unfortunately I do still see it. No bloggers want to promote your company via blog posts and so on for a chance to get paid for the work. It’s insulting. I feel like it’s illegal. It sure sounds a lot like consideration to me. See this great post by Sara Hawkins on giveaway laws. […]

  159. Car 0224 November 27, 2015 at 6:28 am - Reply

    Your blog is really good to read and helpful for us. I hope you will post good articles like this in future. Thanks.

  160. criminal defense January 31, 2016 at 3:27 am - Reply

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  161. Patti February 2, 2016 at 3:50 pm - Reply

    Thank you Sara, this is very helpful.

  162. […] gambling-law-us.com jonesday.com money.howstuffworks.com out-law.com quora.com sarafhawkins.com targetmarketingmag.com […]

  163. […] Be aware of what your blog giveaway really is.  There are three different types: sweepstakes, contests, and giveaways.  Make sure you’re running yours right.  For more information, see: Sweepstakes, Contests and Giveaways-Laws Bloggers & Brands Need to Know by Sara H. Hawkins. […]

  164. kodacboly February 9, 2016 at 11:42 am - Reply

    Dear Sara,

    Thank you very much for your article, I really enjoyed your well-written summary of this important issue. Also, I read all the comments, but I have a question I could not get an answer for it.
    So, If I would like to do a sweepstakes, I need to have a free entry, but I also can have other optional entries as well.
    Let’s suppose that I have 1 free entry and 2 other optional entries, all offer the same chance at winning if completed than the free entry.
    If the participant uses all the optional and free entry, then he/she gets 3 times better chance at winning than the ones who only registered via the free entry.
    Is it legal? Can the host allow the participant to register 3 times for a sweepstakes in order to get a better chance at winning?
    Thanks in advance

    • Sara Hawkins February 9, 2016 at 12:42 pm - Reply

      US Sweepstakes laws permit optional entries, which may or may not confer consideration to the administrator, sponsor, or a designated recipient. What the law does not allow is for some entries to give a greater chance of winning than other options. Having optional entries may increase an individual’s overall chance of winning because they have 3 chances to win instead of 1 but each entry would, in the scenario I just presented, provide the same chance of winning.

      The trouble arises when optional entries create a greater chance of winning. For example, if you get 1 entry for the “free” entry but if you complete Optional Entry 1 you get 3 entries and Optional Entry 2 gives you 5 entries. This type of entry process would violate nearly every state law regarding sweepstakes because some entry methods gave the entrant a great chance of winning than others.

      Hope this helps,
      Sara

      • kodacboly February 12, 2016 at 11:31 am - Reply

        Amazing! Thank you, Sara!

  165. Giveaways and contests; the good the bad and the ugly – Social Media and the 21st Century February 28, 2016 at 2:57 pm - Reply

    […] Sweepstakes, Contests & Giveaways – Laws Bloggers & Brands Need to Know […]

  166. Savannah March 9, 2016 at 11:09 am - Reply

    Hi Sara! Thank you so much for this article.

    I’m trying to write a guide for giveaways on Instagram. After reading your article I quickly realized that the majority of giveaways being done could be considered illegal lotteries due to the consideration requirements of liking the photo, leaving a comment, or following the person’s IG account.

    However, when trying to think of a “free” entry to get around this the only thing I could think of was offering people the option of messaging me as a form of entry. Would this be compliant as a free entry?

    From what I’m reading on the internet it seems the FTC could slowly be moving towards cracking down on these kinds of sweepstakes!

    Thanks again,

    Savannah

    • Savannah March 9, 2016 at 11:11 am - Reply

      Follow up question: Does the new FTC disclosure guidelines apply to sharing giveaway images as a form of entry? Thanks!

      • Sara Hawkins March 19, 2016 at 12:48 pm - Reply

        The FTC disclosure guidelines would not necessarily apply with a simple share. However, if there is a link or action whereby the original sharer would obtain additional entries if someone takes those additional actions it may require appropriate disclosure.

    • Sara Hawkins March 19, 2016 at 12:50 pm - Reply

      Instagram sweepstakes do pose a number of unique challenges with regard to the legal requirements at both the state and federal levels. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you if a specific type of entry mechanism is compliant because I don’t have all the facts.

  167. Hi there!

    I just entered a sweepstakes that has some strange rules. It says that if you follow someone on a website (Twitch.tv) you can gain +1 entry. If you pay $4.99 monthly to subscribe to this person’s channel, you can then gain +50 entries. What are the laws regarding something like this? Is this allowed?

    Here is the giveaway:
    https://gleam.io/bsrfn/egn-may-giveaway

    • Sara Hawkins May 18, 2016 at 12:48 pm - Reply

      Sweepstakes must not have any means of entry that provides a greater or less than equal probability of winning when compared to other means of entry. Whether mandatory or an alternative means of entry, the entry must not only give consumers an equal chance to win, but the format must also not be overly difficult. If some entry methods give an entrant more entries than others that would be a violation of state law.

  168. How To Make Money With WordPress - WPExplorer August 3, 2016 at 12:15 pm - Reply

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  171. Piper November 21, 2016 at 3:41 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this article. I see a lot of “giveaways” on FB for vehicles and tiny hones but they are posted by media sites. They ask you to like and share to be eligible but there are no rules and they never list winners. I don’t believe they or anyone is giving anything away but using people to like their site.

    • Sara Hawkins November 24, 2016 at 2:16 pm - Reply

      Any promotions, especially a sweepstakes or contest, that does not have detailed rules should be evaluated very closely. Any real company giving away a prize valued of any significant amount would likely have given consideration to the legal ramifications of what they are doing. In addition, there are platform rules. Violation of platform rules may not bring about the same issues as legal violations, but few legitimate companies are willing to risk having their page taken down for blatant violations of a platforms terms.

  172. Clark Harris November 30, 2016 at 3:46 pm - Reply

    Thank you for the great information here. My question is around a private sweepstakes to members of our program. It would not be a public offering to everyone, but only published to members through an email campaign. The Prize would be a promotional item from the site. Would it still be regulated the same if it weren’t public?

    • Sara Hawkins November 30, 2016 at 10:20 pm - Reply

      Hi Clark,

      There is no such thing as a “private” or “public” sweepstakes. A sweepstakes is a game of chance and whether made available to the general public or to a private membership organization the same laws apply. The only difference is that if the organization is a specific organization (usually certain charitable organization or educational institutions) covered by laws relating to raffles (raffles are the same as a lottery but permissible by law for certain exempted groups).

  173. Mario December 2, 2016 at 10:40 am - Reply

    Hi Sara,
    What a great article. I have a question. I participate in a social media contest that promise a prize to the five people with the most likes on a picture. When the contest ended, I was notify that I was not a winner (although I was one of the person with the most likes) because I didn’t use their page to post my picture. However, that rule was not part of the rules sent to all the participants in an email. The company is in the state of California. My question is if there is any type of law or place where I can put complaint for what it seems to be a misleading marketing or false advertisement.

  174. Feegenie December 9, 2016 at 4:50 am - Reply

    Thanks for the information. When it comes to bloggers, there are few things more valuable than followers.

  175. How to Use a Rafflecopter Giveaway to Promote Your Book December 14, 2016 at 7:09 am - Reply

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  176. MH December 14, 2016 at 11:14 am - Reply

    Hi. I recently entered a contest where they had a deadline for entry listed in the official rules (ex. 12 PM EST). However, they ended up choosing a winner who entered after that time (the contest was on Facebook and you entered by submitting Facebook posts, so it’s obvious the person who won entered hours after the deadline).

    Is this something they’re allowed to do? It doesn’t seem very fair to me.

    • Sara Hawkins December 14, 2016 at 10:52 pm - Reply

      Without looking at the rules and the specifics, it’s difficult to know exactly what transpired and if it was compliant with the rules. Perhaps there is another method of entry and this person won based on that or the time shown on Facebook was your local time and the rules used a different time zone. If, though, the selected winner did not comply with the rules, the administrator/sponsor should be able to verify that detail. It is the responsibility of the administrator/sponsor to ensure that any potential winner is fully complaint with all rules and regulations with regard to the sweepstakes/contest.

  177. Fred Saj December 20, 2016 at 2:04 am - Reply

    This blog was really interesting as I was finding the same top about the law blog giveaway is legal or not, thanks for helping me out

  178. Marc December 21, 2016 at 12:41 am - Reply

    Hey Sara,

    If a company or organization sends out an e-mail that says they’re going to give a prize to the person at the top of the leaderboard and then a week later send another e-mail that says they’re going to randomly select someone from the top 5 people on that leaderboard, is that illegal? If so, what can I do about this?

    I’ve been working really hard to get to the top of the leaderboard and after I got the e-mail that said someone from the top 5 will win, I was disappointed to see that they changed how the winner will be selected (contest ends today).

    • Sara Hawkins December 28, 2016 at 4:59 pm - Reply

      Marc,

      Changing rules for sweepstakes and contests after the promotion has begun may be counter to the laws of the state and/or federal government with regard to such promotions. If there are official rules those would be the first resource to review regarding what can and can not be done. If the official rules are silent with regard to modification of the rules or are contrary to stated laws or regulations the modifications/changes may be prohibited. This type of inquiry is very fact specific.

      Best Wishes,
      Sara

  179. Jackie Green December 21, 2016 at 4:16 am - Reply

    I’ve read and seen a lot of blogs and vlogs that use marketing strategy to gain viewers/audience. I hope this would come across all the bloggers so they can be aware of the said law for giveaways.

  180. Lawyer December 26, 2016 at 9:36 pm - Reply

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  181. Shelley January 20, 2017 at 10:02 am - Reply

    We are going to run a Twitter Poll for Physical Therapy students to enter. At the end of the month all Tweets will be entered into a drawing. The winning student will receive a brand name product worth X amount of dollars.

    In our Poll tweet, are we allowed to mention the brand name of the product they will be winning. I know we can not use an exact picture and/or logo, but can we mention the name?

    • Sara Hawkins February 11, 2017 at 4:17 pm - Reply

      Are you allowed to mention the brand? Of course, that depends. This is an excellent example of the various legal questions that come up when using third-party trademarks in a sweepstakes or contest. In a tweet there may not be enough space to explain the relationship. If there are no official rules, even using Twitter could present liability with regard to their TOS. If third-parties have not provided permission to use their intellectual property, it’s well within their right to take any number of different actions. This is why official rules are really important, so these matters can be dealt with appropriately.

  182. RV January 25, 2017 at 11:19 pm - Reply

    Dear Sara,

    I hope you can help me. There is an East Coast magazine that has an ongoing sweepstakes. Every day, they award a new prize. The prizes are mostly anti-aging skincare kits, and many are luxurious and expensive. Supposedly, winners are chosen via “random draw.” Anyway, last year there was a woman who got picked approx 5 times, probably within 6 mos. In fact, she sometimes won twice within one month! How can that ever be possible in a random draw? You’re only allowed 1 entry per day. I would check the winner’s list (listing first and last name, city and state) everyday, and I caught it. I contacted the magazine. They said they were checking to see why her name kept getting chosen. Anyway, the woman was able to claim over $1,200 in beauty products and no one there thought it was strange? Then a little bit later, I saw another woman in California also won twice within a short period of time. I contacted the magazine again. They wrote me back and said that because of what happened, they changed the rules and now a person can only win 1 time per year. When I looked up the rules, I don’t see that change.

    Is this legal? I don’t like the fact that the sponsors are choosing winners for their sweepstakes. I think it’s better to have an independent judge to do it. I don’t trust many of the companies anymore. I believe they can easily award prizes to people who have subscriptions to their magazines, buy their products, etc, without anyone keeping them on the straight and narrow.

    Thanks for your help.

    • Sara Hawkins February 11, 2017 at 4:25 pm - Reply

      A sweepstakes is a random draw, which means there is an equal likelihood that any one entrant is chosen. If the winner is not chosen by random draw that would be a clear violation of sweepstakes laws. In addition, if there are rules that are not being followed there could be federal and/or state consumer protection violations. If you believe that laws were not followed or your rights as a consumer are being violated you can contact your local attorney general, the attorney general where the company/business operates and/or file a complaint with the FTC.

      • RV March 2, 2017 at 3:47 pm - Reply

        I’m so glad I bookmarked this page and remembered to check back.

        Thank you for responding to my question. I will keep this information in mind.

    • John February 11, 2017 at 11:18 pm - Reply

      Though that certainly sounds suspicious, I can’t tell you that it does happen on occasion that a person gets picked more than once . In the mid-1970s, one of my entry blanks was drawn both in week one and in week five for a grocery store sweepstakes.

      20 years ago, I was at a small event where my name was pulled three or four times .

      In 1985, one week after I won a TV bingo jackpot, my wife won a smaller jackpot . After that, the TV station changed the rules so that a person could only win once every 90 days.

      But it is certainly possible that someone there might be playing games, but hopefully with the change in rules, the prices will get spread out.

      You certainly did the right thing by bringing it to the managers attention. They don’t want a small number of people winning, they want as many people to win as possible because they hope you’ll be better customers .

      • RV March 21, 2017 at 11:59 pm - Reply

        I don’t know. It’s just a bad feeling I have now that I didn’t have long ago. I think there are ways that sweepstakes can be tampered with. I’ve entered sweepstakes for at least 30 years and I fully trusted them “back in the day” when I entered via the U.S. Mail, BUT now we have the Internet. I wouldn’t be surprised by anything. There aren’t enough checks and balances in place anymore and people are doing many wrong things thru the Internet.

        I really believe that companies can decide to increase the odds for people who purchase their products. If they are the ones choosing the winners, why not? It’s all in-house.

        There is another major magazine that I used to have a subscription to for years. I’ve won several decent prizes from them while I got their magazine, but I let my subscription lapse and though I’ve tried VERY hard to win, I haven’t been able to. I last won from them 4 years ago. I’m going to sign up with them again and see if I can soon garner another win.

        Another thing: When I lived in some other states, I won more often and I entered a lot less. It was a noticeable difference. So, I believe the entries are probably at least being separated by state. I just don’t believe all things are equal.

        The magazine I wrote about seems to continually award prizes to people living in certain states. I’m still keeping up with it. People in those states win again and again, and the states are not very large or heavily populated. I just can’t see how a sweepstakes that offers such great prizes to entrants across the United States is not picking winners from all over the country. I’m looking at the odds and I don’t see how it can be so.

        • John March 25, 2017 at 2:41 pm - Reply

          I agree with you. I wish that the places that offer to send out lists of winners would also identify what percentage of the entrants made a purchase and what percentage of the winners were people who made a purchase. Having that information as a summary after their previous sweepstakes were over would allow a person to decide whether a contest was honest or not. (If 10% of the entrants made a purchase, but 90% of the winners made a purchase, it would indicate a crooked contest.)

          A year or two ago, I got one of those postcards in the mail that told me I might have won a car. I knew, from reading the find print, that the odds were 499,996 out of 500,000 that I’d win $2 (for letting a salesman talk to me about cars), but since I was going to be near the dealer, I stopped there. Yes, I only won $2.

          BUT, and here’s the funny part, the salesman reminded me that they were having a “you must be present to win” drawing from all of the people who had come to the dealership to see if they won a prize on Saturday, so that Saturday, I figured it was worth coming in for it. I picked up a friend so he could get the $2 and also try for the drawing.

          On the way there, he kept telling me how these contests are crooked and how the manager’s brother-in-law or another relative would certainly win the prize. Imagine his surprise when I won the $5000. (Later he tried to convince me that I owed him half my prize for his riding with me, but I didn’t give in to his logic.)

  183. ciel January 30, 2017 at 10:41 am - Reply

    Hi. I would like to know: if a rule or stipulation of entry into a contest is a donation towards a community project, would that make the contest into a lottery?

    • Sara Hawkins February 6, 2017 at 11:01 pm - Reply

      Donations are consideration and, generally, would create a lottery situation. In some circumstances, states do permit certain types of charitable, religious, and educational organization to conduct a ‘raffle’ which is the same as a lottery (consideration, prize, game of chance). However, commercial businesses are not covered by these laws and requiring a donation to an interested third party is ‘consideration’ even though the sponsor or administrator of the game of chance (sweepstakes) is not receiving the money.

  184. estate tax lawyer hawaii February 9, 2017 at 3:05 am - Reply

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  185. ashlee February 9, 2017 at 3:49 pm - Reply

    Hi Sara, Thanks for the info! My company wants to give away a Disney vacation to one potential new patient out of the hundreds we see during the course of a year. Do we have to have official rules for this? Thanks!!

    • Sara Hawkins February 9, 2017 at 10:27 pm - Reply

      I always suggest having official rules for any contest or sweepstakes so you can ensure that there are known rules as to how the promotion will be operated and the entrants know what responsibilities they have. In addition, using a third party trademark such as Disney could create trademark liability issues that could easily be covered in a set of official rules. Furthermore, different people have different ideas of what a “Disney vacation” would include and by not being clear the potential liability if the prize doesn’t measure up could be an issue.

  186. Ken Shankley February 12, 2017 at 8:49 pm - Reply

    Sara,
    Thank you for the information in this post. I want to run a giveaway, where the winner is given a 100.00 U.S. via Paypal. To enter they have to subscribe to our newsletter. That’s it. The winner would be chosen by me randomly at the end of the contest. As long as I inform the public what the rules are, is there anything else I need to do? Also, can people from other countries win as long as again, it is stipulated that the money is US dollars payable only through Paypal? Thanks!

    • Sara Hawkins February 15, 2017 at 2:18 pm - Reply

      Ken, for residents of a jurisdiction to be permitted entry into a sweepstakes the sweepstakes must comply with the rules and laws of that jurisdiction and may not be prohibited by another jurisdiction. For example, in the US, there are a number of countries for which there are federal embargo laws so US businesses may not do business with those countries except under certain circumstances. In addition, many countries outside the US do not permit a sweepstakes promotion with the same criteria as the US. Also, there may be a question regarding whether subscription to a newsletter is sufficient to be deemed consideration since there are no specific legal or regulatory guidelines other than the prior cases, few of which speak to modern technology. As with any subscription process, and especially with a subscription being an entry method for a sweepstakes, laws regarding direct marketing must also be considered.

  187. Julie Gilliam February 14, 2017 at 7:52 am - Reply

    Hi Sara –

    I run a small boutique and recently there has been A LOT of rumors swirling about this subject. I realize, from reading your article, I run sweepstakes (I thought they were just a fun little giveaway to the people who routinely shop with me!). I’m still struggling with one of the rumors however and can’t seem to find an answer anywhere that isn’t just ‘rumor’ from others in the business. I’m told, by many, that when I give away $$ to spend in my shop, I have to give a certain amount (equal to the lowest cost item I sell), ,but I can give the same $$ in a package in any denomination I want – if it weren’t for this contradiction, I would understand better… do you have any insight in to this?

    Thank you SO much for your time!

    • Sara Hawkins February 15, 2017 at 2:11 pm - Reply

      Julie, there are no state or federal laws the specify what the minimum value of a prize must be for a business offering a consumer sweepstakes. There are, however, a multitude of consumer protection laws that may apply if the prize is meaningless and solely used as a means of obtaining information so the business can market to the entrants. From a practical standpoint, is it really a prize if the winner can’t use it unless they add their own money? There are consumer protection laws that generally state the requirement to pay to redeem a prize could be a sign that the promotion is a scam. While a business may have good intention, a promotion where the winner must spend more money to actually redeem the prize may fail to meet the minimum guidelines set by consumer protection regulations.

  188. […] not a legal professional, so I can’t offer any advice here. This post by Sara Hawkins offers some insights. But speaking to a legal professional about your specific […]

  189. Melissa Davis February 22, 2017 at 2:51 pm - Reply

    Dear Ms. Hawkins,

    I have created a review blog, and to date, all of my features have been unpaid (though I have received samples in exchange for my review). I am in touch with a company that is possibly interested in paying me some modest amount for a sponsored post. What kind of disclosure etc. do bloggers need to provide for sponsored material?

    Thanks so much!

    Melissa

    • Sara Hawkins March 13, 2017 at 12:14 pm - Reply

      Melissa,

      Check out my posts about FTC-required disclosure, they will give you information on what is needed to comply with regarding to paid, sponsored, or business-related content. Even if you are just getting product for free to review, that is information that requires disclosure under FTC regulations.

      Good luck with your blog!

  190. adam friedman February 27, 2017 at 5:16 am - Reply

    Sara,

    I like your style!

    We are looking to begin a campaign of mystery card values. We will distribute gift cards with mystery amounts. When the cards are brought to us, or we care called, the card holder may redeem the card value. May we make a criteria around the card program(s)? For instance, they must open an account? Or do must we allow for a general mail in for the giveaway?

    • Sara Hawkins March 13, 2017 at 12:09 pm - Reply

      Adam, there are too many variables with a promotion such as you have briefly described to answer your questions. Many sweepstakes providing on-line gift cards as a prize will require that the user create an account to redeem the prize. However, that’s not always the case and depending on the terms of the account may not be a legally appropriate option. Sound like you are needing legal advice as what you are asking is beyond the scope of general legal information regarding sweepstakes administration. If I can help, please contact me privately.

  191. Tom Rouse February 27, 2017 at 10:25 am - Reply

    Sara,

    Thank you for the information you have provided. Here’s my question. My agency is working with a non-profit. They want to run a contest to increase their social footprint and get their membership to download their new mobile app. Their members range in age from 14-18 years old. All of the prizes are being donated by a sponsor so there is no official money’s being exchanged. In that case, is there any issue running the contest to someone 18 years or younger? A couple more pieces of info:

    1) the contest will run in Texas
    2) the organization wants to make sure only existing members can participated (meaning anyone who happens upon the contest on facebook would not be able to win any prizes. I don’t believe we can stop them from participating but we were thinking we could issue a legal disclaimer to say only current members in Texas can participate).
    3) There are approximately 140,000 active members in Texas that fall in the age range of 14-18 years old.

    Thanks in advance for your feedback.

    • Sara Hawkins March 13, 2017 at 12:05 pm - Reply

      Tom, sweepstakes and contests that are open to individuals under 18 (or the age of majority in their jurisdiction) present unique challenges because US law does not recognize a minor’s ability to enter into a legally binding contract, which is what official rules really are.

      Many sweepstakes and contests are limited to specific groups, it just has to be stated in the rules and be legally possible.

      If I can be of assistance, please contact me privately.

  192. Christa February 27, 2017 at 11:05 am - Reply

    Hi Sara,

    Question, I know for shipping a giveaway, the shipping must be free to the customer. I had a question come up about being charged shipping if you got, lets say $25 to the store, but spend $35. Can the store then charge you a shipping fee for redeeming that $25 credit from the giveaway?

    Thanks, Christa

    • Sara Hawkins March 13, 2017 at 12:01 pm - Reply

      Some people interpret the rule that the prizewinner does not have to pay to obtain their prize, the gift card/store credit, as not having to pay taxes or shipping when redeeming the gift card/store credit. These are two different aspects of prize redemption. It’s very clear that the prizewinner should not pay anything to receive the gift card/store credit. However, the law is not as firm with regard to the winner having to pay sales tax or shipping when redeeming the gift card/store credit.

      Many online stores do not allow gift cards to be used to cover sales tax or shipping/handling. As strange as it may seem, it’s true.

      Best practice would be to provide a gift card/store credit that covered taxes and shipping even if the user spent more than the value of the card. If the goal is to reward a customer or to make a new customer why have a prize that will undermine that goal?

      If the winner would have to pay taxes and/or shipping when redeeming their gift card/store credit prize that information should be stated very clearly in the rules and re-iterated such that the winner would know that’s the case when redeeming the prize.

  193. Jenniffer | Life is Messy and Brilliant March 3, 2017 at 5:22 pm - Reply

    Hi Sara,

    I’m planning to give away 5 redemption codes for an app that cost $7. I’m going to use rafflecopter to run the giveaway. I will ask people to visit the FB, Instagram, twitter, and Pinterest of the company that provided the free codes and my own social media. Is it ok to make this giveaway international?

    Thank you for your reply!

    • Sara Hawkins March 13, 2017 at 11:36 am - Reply

      Sweepstakes that have no limitation as to country are rarely compliant with all jurisdictions. Platforms often allow users from many countries to use their platform, with Terms specifically stating that the user is responsible for all legal and regulatory compliance related to their promotion. Many non-US jurisdictions have laws requiring registration or use of certified legal translations. In addition, there are US laws that prohibit trade with residents in embargoed countries. While logistically possible to hold a global sweepstakes or contest, legally it is quite complex.

  194. Ethan Garofalo March 10, 2017 at 5:13 am - Reply

    This article is amazing, I want to appreciate you for sharing as being a law student I really like reading articles related to law and lawyers because it increases my knowledge and helps me out. I keep on sharing about new things as well 🙂

  195. Whamma J. March 13, 2017 at 5:31 pm - Reply

    Sara,
    great info, I have looked at the gaming laws in my state (NH) where it states that you may not hold a “game of chance,” legally within the state.

    If the entrants of a Facebook-hosted contest where nationwide winners are chosen by random number or wheel are first sold a retail item as a requirement to obtain a “spot” (where everyone gets something of value shipped to them for entering and choosing a number) Can the other larger prizes offered be considered a “free upgrade”(to nullify game of chance) if the condition to enter requires an entry fee ?

    • Sara Hawkins March 13, 2017 at 8:49 pm - Reply

      New Hampshire prohibits ‘games of chance’ under certain instances covered by state gambling laws. Depending on how the Facebook promotion is structured it may or may not be a prohibited game of chance under New Hampshire law. If the requirement to enter the promotion is (1) to make a purchase; (2) the winner would be chosen by random selection; and (3) a prize will be awarded, that is a lottery and is illegal in all 50 U.S. states, not just New Hampshire. Based solely on what you’ve stated (“winners are chosen by random”, “sold a retail item as a requirement to obtain a “spot” …”, prizes offered) there is a high likelihood that what you described would be deemed a lottery, and illegal.

    • Whamma J. March 14, 2017 at 8:45 am - Reply

      Thanks Sara,
      looks like I am going to cease activity on “spots” for the retail items and just change the business model to an auction style sale, which I believe is legal nationwide and internationally, since I ship to parts of Canada.

  196. How do I run a LEGAL giveaway? – brittanyratelle.com March 15, 2017 at 3:37 pm - Reply

    […] not their responsibility to comply with the law. It’s yours. There is a detailed comment thread here that might be useful if you have specific […]

  197. Glenn March 15, 2017 at 5:41 pm - Reply

    hi! Thanks for the information on sweepstakes and giveaways..

    I have a quick question, I want to have a giveaway that we are giving away $1000 of ad space on a blog. Does this have to be reported to IRS? Its not really monetary gain. We just decided to give it a value based on site traffic and etc.

    • Sara Hawkins March 15, 2017 at 6:02 pm - Reply

      Under IRS regulations, winnings from a sweepstakes or contest in the value of $600 or more are required to be reported, except under certain exceptions, on a Form 1099-MISC. It is not solely monetary winnings but all winnings since the IRS collects tax on all prizes and winnings regardless of value. A prize with a value of $1,000 is $1,000 of prize winnings to be reported regardless of whether it’s cash, goods or services. The value reported is the fair market value at the time the prize was transferred to the winner.

      • Glenn March 16, 2017 at 7:11 am - Reply

        Thanks alot Sara! That cleared up alot for me.. I actually researched this answer a little further and read a blog post about taxes being paid on those Million Dollar HGTV Dream homes.. Really Eye opening… They mentioned in the article about its not about actually receiving the money for the house… but the value of the prize…

  198. Terence March 21, 2017 at 7:32 pm - Reply

    Hi,

    you blog is great! it is very helpful. However, I still have a small question after reading your blog. If i draw several out of the people who gives me their email address for a gift, and then the more they share on social media, the more entry they have for the draw, is it a contest or sweepstakes?

    Thanks a lot for the help in advance!

    • Sara Hawkins March 28, 2017 at 8:35 am - Reply

      A contest is a game of skill and the winner is chosen based on objective and/or subjective judging criteria. A sweepstakes is a game of chance where the winner is selected through a random draw. If you are just drawing names regardless of any specific selection criteria that would be a sweepstakes.

  199. Cynthia March 23, 2017 at 10:00 am - Reply

    Thank you so much for this great article. I am partnering with a travel agency to giveaway a pretty big prize that is valued at close to $10,000. Initially, I wanted it to be a sweepstakes so that we could get more entrants but with all the guidelines in NYC, FL & RI, I am now considering a contest instead. As such, I have a few questions I’m hoping you can answer:

    1) If I run a sweepstakes, the only restrictions I’d need to adhere to are that I would have to limit it to US residents but exclude residents of New York, Florida and Rhode Island. Is that correct?

    2) Because a lot of my readers are from Canada, NY & FL, I am considering turning this into a contest instead. If it is a contest I don’t have to register/bond it in NY, FL & RI, right? But do I still need to follow specific Canadian rules?

    3) What exactly would be considered a contest? For example, can I ask readers to answer some trivia questions that they would easily find answers to on the homepage of my sponsor’s website, and only those who answer correctly will be entered to win? Would this be a contest (because it’s not pure luck) or would it be an illegal lottery (because I’m asking them to do something that takes time)? I’m a little confused about the difference here. I’m trying to come up with a contest idea that doesn’t require uploading a photo/video/essay because I feel like less people will enter if I ask them to do something complicated.

    Thank you so much!

    • Sara Hawkins March 28, 2017 at 9:57 am - Reply

      Hello Cynthia,

      With regard to some of your questions, you are asking for legal advice and that is beyond the scope of the website-enabled comments.

      For the questions that are of a general nature:

      1. Contests do not need to be registered/bonded in NY, FL, or RI.
      2. Contests must be compliant with all laws and regulations for the jurisdictions in which they operate.
      3. A contest is a game of skill. Using “skills” that everyone can easily accomplish leaves you in a precarious predicament of how to choose the winner. If the winner is then just selected through a random draw of everyone who accomplished the “skill” the contest then becomes a sweepstakes and must then comply with sweepstakes laws.

  200. Bruce Reed March 25, 2017 at 6:07 pm - Reply

    Do you know of one centralized place where all the State laws regarding sweepstakes can be found? Or, does one have to peruse all 50 States to discover what is legal/illegal?

    Thanks,

    Bruce Reed
    Bearpaw Computers

    • Sara Hawkins March 28, 2017 at 8:27 am - Reply

      Bruce, there are likely to be legal treatises or books on the topic but they would not be available for purchase by the general public. As for a comprehensive list of state and federal laws, I don’t know of one that is public.

  201. Trenton W. March 26, 2017 at 2:16 pm - Reply

    I am starting a business in Utah offering certain services, say… item appraisals (not really, but it’s a close example.) I want to do a monthly giveaway for two $100 gift cards. I want to offer two chances to win for each time my services are used (One entry for the person using my services, and one for the person who referred the customer). I understand about clearly written and easily obtained rules. I understand about prohibiting my family/friends/employees, etc. from entering. I even understand about the clear records keeping (who wins, how they are chosen… mine will be a random drawing, etc.) And I read the Utah law, in it, it says there is an exemption for activities that are “clearly ancillary to the primary activity of a business.” I just want to know what I’s I need to dot, and what T’s I need to cross in order to make it legal and kosher. There are two businesses who do something similar that I can think of right away. One is DieselSellerz who give away trucks, and you get an entry for every $5 you spend on their site. And Maverick who award you points for using your fuel card and you can spend the points on prizes, including “entry” into contests. So…. How are they able to legally do a sweepstakes and how can I copy those same steps to keep my company and myself on the right side of the law?

    • Sara Hawkins March 28, 2017 at 8:25 am - Reply

      Trenton, loyalty cards are governed by different laws/statutes than sweepstakes/contest/lottery/gambling laws. All, however, must comply with the same consumer protection laws. That being said, without looking at official rules for the DieselSellerz or Maverick promotions you mention I can’t say how they do it exactly. Often sweepstakes that promote an entry in exchange for a purchase will have a free means of entry as well that will have that one aspect of the process comply with state laws. If you wish to sponsor a sweepstakes/contest you should seek competent legal counsel to advise you how to ensure your promotion is compliant.

  202. Kevin March 27, 2017 at 2:12 pm - Reply

    Hello,
    I am currently 16 and would like to enter in a giveaway by some other person. the item is less than 600$ and would like to know if that is old enough. I live in the US.
    Thanks, Kevin

    • Kevin March 27, 2017 at 2:17 pm - Reply

      Like how do I find laws in my state of NJ

      • Sara Hawkins March 28, 2017 at 8:14 am - Reply

        Depending on what exactly you’re looking for you will need to examine both NJ statutes related to trade practices as well as NJ statutes that govern gambling.

      • John March 28, 2017 at 8:40 am - Reply

        You should not have to worry about looking up your state laws. The rules for the contest you are entering should make it very clear if there is a minimum age or other restriction for entrants.

        If the rules do not specify a minimum age, you can generally assume that you are allowed to enter. In general, the worst that might happen is that the company might award the prize to a person of your choice that is of age.

        • Sara Hawkins March 28, 2017 at 9:10 am - Reply

          “In general, the worst that might happen is that the company might award the prize to a person of your choice that is of age.”

          That is likely not the worst that might happen. The worst that might happen is that an entrant is declared ineligible and disqualified from receiving the prize. If the rules do not state that the ineligible potential winner would be able to designate an eligible person to be declared the winner instead, the sponsor/administrator should be aware that consumer protection and truth in advertising laws are applicable to all consumer promotions. Allowing an ineligible entrant to somehow make themselves eligible is a questionable practice.

    • Sara Hawkins March 28, 2017 at 7:13 am - Reply

      Kevin, you should read the official rules to find out what age limit is set. If there are no rules, besides that being a potential problem, then you can enter since there are no entry specifications. Will you be awarded the prize if they find out your age? Who knows. But that’s a separate issue.

  203. Deb Tilton March 29, 2017 at 8:36 am - Reply

    I’m just wondering if I can enter any contest – ones that parents.com host or mom’s website hosts or even seventeen magazine.
    In other words what I am asking is – Should you enter a contest if you are NOT a parent, grandparent, mom, have kids or 17 and under, if you are interested in the prize?

    I think it would be embarrassing when they ask about you if you did win, but otherwise, is it ok to do and should I be able to?

    just wondering, I generally do not enter them because of the embarasment it would be when asked about myself and why I would want the prize

    • Sara Hawkins April 11, 2017 at 1:06 am - Reply

      If you meet the eligibility criteria for a sweepstakes or contest, you can enter that promotion.

  204. Johnny Starburst April 1, 2017 at 4:50 am - Reply

    Very informative information that I understand to be addressing Sweepstakes, Contests & Giveaways. Is there a different set of laws, rules & regulations applied to running an online song contest with prizes in which contestants from around the world submit songs and after judging prizes are given?

    • Sara Hawkins April 11, 2017 at 1:05 am - Reply

      Any contest would need to be compliant with the laws of the jurisdiction where the promotion is being conducted, where the promotion is being marketed, and most importantly where the entrants claim residency. The laws regarding contests vary from country to country and it’s impossible to conduct a truly global contest because there are laws of some jurisdictions that wholly conflict with others. To conduct a contest, especially one where there is user-generated content, you will may want to contact an attorney that is knowledgeable in this are of law.

  205. The Complete Guide To Creating And Delivering Lead Magnets (That Will Actually Grow Your Email List) | techAnerd April 2, 2017 at 10:57 am - Reply

    […] not a legal professional, so I can’t offer any advice here. This post by Sara Hawkins offers some insights. But speaking to a legal professional about your specific […]

  206. Patrice White April 8, 2017 at 8:34 am - Reply

    Hi! First of all: thank you for the information!

    I want to hold a “sweepstakes” to raise money to raise awareness for an illness. I want to buy concert tickets (floor seats, high in demand value: $400) and somewhat raffle them off. BUT if you get someone to purchase a ticket: your name is automatically entered into the raffle as many times as you want (so no purchase necessary?). When I draw a ticket (performed live on the internet) I call the person and ask them a question about the illness (a list of information will be provided on the website for reference), if they get the answer wrong: I draw and call again. If they get it right: they get the prize. Along with this: they HAVE to like and share the illness website and publicly announce their winnings within 24 hours.
    My state is NC: Does this sound like a contest? sweepstakes? raffle?

    • Sara Hawkins June 1, 2017 at 11:57 am - Reply

      Requiring payment to enter for a chance to win where the winner is chosen at random is a lottery. Some people call it a raffle, but legally the definition is lottery. Raffles are authorized lotteries to certain types of organizations designated by state statute. Adding a question as a means to validate a winner may not meet the predominance standard against which most contests are evaluated. In addition, adding in mandatory requirements to earn entries may also violate various state laws. You may want to contact someone knowledgeable in this area to obtain proper legal advice.

  207. Concerned April 8, 2017 at 12:48 pm - Reply

    There is a person on youtube named GIVEAWAYS https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKNbR84mHpNPGBV8Tcztj9g?&ab_channel=GIVEAWAYS claiming to give away Iphones and Computer laptops on an almost daily basis. The problem is he is very blatantly telling people if they donate any amount of money to him they will have a better chance at winning…..This guy is an obvious fraud and he is not giving anything to anybody except a bunch of lies. People are desperate and donating to him…..How can this person be legally sued and m,ade to pay for his current fraudulent behavior?

    • Sara Hawkins April 11, 2017 at 1:08 am - Reply

      If a person is committing fraud against you personally, you should seek an attorney knowledgeable in that area of law to protect your interest. If you’re concerned that the person is perpetrating a fraud on the public, you can report the activity to the platform and/or to the FTC.

      • Liz April 11, 2017 at 4:03 pm - Reply

        Hi Sara,
        I like to enter in IG contest. But if the person suddenly cancels it or deletes the post but you have a screen shot, can anything be done?

        • Sara Hawkins June 3, 2017 at 9:18 am - Reply

          If you believe the Terms of Service of a platform are being violated, most major platforms provide a means of reporting the account. If you believe that state laws have been violated you may wish to contact the consumer protection department of your state’s Attorney General’s office and/or the same department for the state(s) in which the organization is incorporated or organized as well as where they are physically located, if different. For violations of federal law regarding marketing promotions, complaints can be filed with the FTC. While the state attorney general may assist individuals in settling disputes, the FTC does not work on behalf of individuals.

          It will be important to have copies of all rules and communications if you wish to file a complaint.

  208. Ken Shankley April 8, 2017 at 7:58 pm - Reply

    Sara,
    I’m not sure if you know the answer to this question, but I can’t seem to find the answer anywhere, and I’ve looked hard. I want to run a boosted post (ad) from our FB page where I tell people that we are giving away merchandise (valued under 40 USD) to 10 lucky winners. To enter they need to sign up for our email subscriber newsletter, which they would do from our website. So, no activity happens on our FB page. The person has to go to our site if they want to enter.
    Will FB let me simply state that or do I need to have all the contest rules on the boosted post? Do I have to let people know that FB is not involved in our giveaway in any way? Again, we just want to announce via a FB boosted ad, we are giving away merch to lucky winners if they subscribe to our newsletter. They have to go to our site to do it though, and that is where they will see our rules and regulations.
    . My concern is getting our page deleted for some TOS, which would be a nightmare for us. FB is very unclear on the protocol for what I want to do. If you can answer or direct me on how to find the answer, I’d be incredibly appreciative. Thanks for your time.

    • Sara Hawkins June 1, 2017 at 11:59 am - Reply

      You may want to reach out directly to Facebook or someone more familiar with Facebook promotions. I do not know the nuances of this type of Facebook promotion.

  209. Judith April 9, 2017 at 10:07 am - Reply

    Sara –

    Terrific article confirming a lot of what I’ve read and understood about sweepstakes, contests, etc. I’ve tried to educate myself thoroughly about this so that we stay on the right side of the law. I read through all the comments and didn’t see an answer to a question I’ve got.

    Our official rules – on a separate page, accessible from a link on our entry form – clearly state that our giveaway (a sweepstakes) is open only to US residents. Entrants have to check a box saying they’ve read and agree to the rules before they can submit their entry form. We have followers from all over the world who don’t read the rules, check the box, and enter themselves. We disqualify anyone who has entered from outside the US and they’re not part of our random drawing to select a winner when the contest closes. In our promotions for the giveaway, we don’t explicitly state those residency requirements, because then we get a bunch of people publicly complaining on our Facebook page that we’re being unfair because they’re not eligible.

    I feel that we’ve met the legal requirements for limiting our giveaway to US residents only. Would you agree? I recognize you can’t provide me advice, but I’d be interested in your opinion. Thank you!

    • Sara Hawkins April 11, 2017 at 1:11 am - Reply

      Truth in advertising laws would likely require disclosure regarding eligibility if you know that you are marketing to individuals who would not be eligible. While having Official Rules will be helpful in disqualifying entrants who do not meet the eligibility requirements, Official Rules alone may not be sufficient to communicate the basics of your rules. And while you may not be violating any law, which I can not comment on, the court of public opinion is often a more harsh judge that an actual court of law.

      • Anonymous April 12, 2017 at 6:27 am - Reply

        Thanks, Sara. I appreciate you taking the time to respond.

  210. Jeff April 13, 2017 at 10:06 am - Reply

    Sara- I had a quick question regarding sweepstakes. A survey team on my campus has put up a chance to win a $50 gift card by taking a survey that they’ve created. However, they have no intention of actually giving out a gift card to someone outside of their group, and are choosing from one of the five that created the survey to begin with. Is this technically legal? On a larger scale would it be illegal? Thank you in advance for any answers!

    • Sara Hawkins June 3, 2017 at 9:31 am - Reply

      If the intent is to engage in a fraudulent scheme, that would be illegal. Fraud is illegal in every state, but does have very specific elements. Third-party groups, or even campus-sanctioned groups, working on a university or college campus that has no intent on lawfully executing a marketing promotion should be reported to campus authorities.

      With regard to contests and sweepstakes generally, it is best practice to exclude individuals associated with the creation, implementation, and fulfillment of a promotion, along with their family members, from eligibility to ensure transparency and fairness. Unfair practices with regard to consumer promotion can be a violation of both state and federal laws.

  211. Amber April 14, 2017 at 10:17 pm - Reply

    I just want to make sure I get this right and not screw up 🙂 so can I post a “sweepstakes” on my blog but have them be able to get an extra chance by subscribing? I really don’t want to screw up.

    • Sara Hawkins June 3, 2017 at 9:34 am - Reply

      Administering a sweepstakes is not something to be undertaken lightly, although many do. “Screwing up” can have any number of consequences. Unfortunately, I can’t say if giving an extra change for subscribing would put you in the clear since there are many other legal considerations and I don’t provide legal advice in these comments.

  212. Lisa Renee Johnson April 15, 2017 at 10:55 pm - Reply

    Sara, I was doing some research and stumbled on your article and I’m so glad that I did. I’m a fiction writer and I want to run a contest/sweepstake for anyone who purchases my book in the first two weeks after release. People who purchase the book and show proof will be entered to win a $100 gift card. 3 winners will be selected in a random drawing. They must enter their receipt number as proof of purchase to be entered to win. Is there anything I should focus on particularly?

    • Lisa Renee Johnson April 15, 2017 at 11:29 pm - Reply

      After reading the article I think this is illegal to have proof of purchase as a requirement…maybe I need to think about requiring them to tweet about the book, like my facebook page or something like that.

  213. Ashley April 17, 2017 at 8:04 am - Reply

    Hi Sarah,

    We just held an Instagram sweepstakes giveaway with a prize valued at less than $200. It’s our first time doing such and we had a very very low entry pool. Thirteen people entered and of those, only two actually completed all the steps required (share a photo, use a hashtag, tag us in the photo), which would make them eligible. We drew our winner from these two names and also announced that winner. Only after all this did we discover the winner was 15 years old and our contest official rules stated “18 and older” … The other qualified entry it turned out is also only 15 years old. Since this is against our official rules, what can we do? Can a guardian accept the prize on the winner’s behalf (which is not in our rules), or do we just cancel the whole contest/prize? Thank you.

    • Sara Hawkins June 3, 2017 at 9:47 am - Reply

      There are a number of issues that you described which are common with online promotions:

      1. Sponsoring a sweepstakes but requiring entrants to engage in multiple actions can create unintended liability. While the law has not caught up to what would be deemed ‘consideration’ with regard to online sweepstakes, requiring entrants to engage in multiple actions could be deemed consideration, creating an illegal lottery.

      2. Marketing a sweepstakes or contest in a manner that targets individuals under the minimum age without clearly stating the minimum age in marketing materials in a clear and conspicuous manner or creating an age verification in the entry can be problematic.

      3. Changing the rules to permit an in-eligible entry to be the winner is a clear violation of consumer promotion laws as well as truth in advertising laws. In addition, canceling a promotion must be done in accordance with the official rules. If there are no provisions for cancellation in the rules, canceling may create unintended liability.

      What your question demonstrates is that it’s important to not only have rules, but also ensure that implementation allows for compliance with the rules and that the rules allow for contingencies and unforeseen circumstance.

  214. Alan W April 19, 2017 at 2:12 pm - Reply

    I started a secondary marketplace site where consumers can sell products on the site to other consumers. I’d like to hold a sweepstakes where to be eligible, the contestant must add a product for sale on the site. It seems as though this would be viewed as consideration based on your article. Is this asking too much of the contestant?

    • Sara Hawkins June 3, 2017 at 9:51 am - Reply

      Consideration comes in many forms with regard to sweepstakes law. There may be ways to remain compliant while still having requiring an entrant to engage in some action that is deemed consideration, so I would suggest consulting with an attorney or someone knowledgeable with sweepstakes laws and implementation.

  215. Amanda April 28, 2017 at 1:42 am - Reply

    Hello
    Loved the article I would like your option on something if you enter an international giveaway and live in the US can you be disqualified even if the official rules state this:

    The Sweepstakes (“Sweepstakes”) is open to all humans age 21 or older at time of entry. Residents of Taiwan, South Korea, Portugal, Italy, Austria, China, Russia, Hong Kong, Greece, France, Japan, Spain, and Czech Republic are not eligible to enter or win.

    It never says that it’s an international ONLY giveaway so if the US is not listed as one of the countries not eligible then why would someone living in the US be disqualified? I would think that these people running these contests need to be specific about what countries can enter and which ones can not.
    Thank you. What are your thoughts.

    • Sara Hawkins June 3, 2017 at 10:28 am - Reply

      This is likely an example of someone or a company that doesn’t understand what they’re writing as their rules. If a country is not specifically excluded or in another way invalidated it may be a violation of US consumer protection laws to retroactively exclude certain entrants.

      International sweepstakes/contests are very difficult to administer due to the multiple legal jurisdictions with with the rules and administration must comply.

  216. Sebastian May 1, 2017 at 7:03 pm - Reply

    Hi Sara,

    I’m from Ecuador and I was thinking of doing a giveaway to promote an online store I have. The entry method is suposed to be a selfie with a shirt that I sell in my store, so it means the entry isn’t free, right, because they need to purchase the shirt in order to take the selfie. And the prize was suposed to be an Iphone 7 or a 3 day vacation, the winner would have the chance to choose the prize.

    Now my questions are:

    1.-In Ecuador is it legal to buy something as an entry to a giveaway, for example every $25 you purchase you have a chance to win $10.000, so if the person who wins my giveaway is from the US. Does that means that I am regulated by US laws or by the ecuadorian ones? Am I making an ilegal lottery?

    2.-The prize is valued around $800. Does the person who wins needs to inform the IRS or I have to do that? And how could I do that? Because I don’t have a social security number.

    3.-If I decide to add a free entry such as subscribe via email, could it be considered legal to ask them to make the purchase of the shirt?

    4.-If I decide to change the way of entry to one in which it is necessary to download a free app. Does it continues being regulated under the laws of sweepstake? or it becomes again in a lottery?

    Thanks a lot for the help in advance!

    Sebastian

    • Sara Hawkins June 3, 2017 at 10:31 am - Reply

      For all promotions that are open to US residents, US laws (both state and federal) apply, regardless of residency of the Sponsor or Administrator. Just because something is legal in the country of residence of the Sponsor or Administrator does not mean that legality is shared globally.

      With regard to non-US companies filing IRS forms there are specific tax laws governing those relationships. Due to their multiple and specific criteria you would need to determine if your company would meet the requirements for such filings.

  217. Abdulhakim Binherz May 5, 2017 at 11:14 am - Reply

    Great and useful post. Thanks for sharing. Expecting your next post……………

  218. Susan May 12, 2017 at 6:16 pm - Reply

    Hi Sara – I’m glad I found your site. I discovered my agency has been driving up the entries to our sweepstakes by telling their friends and family to enter – to make the sweeps appear successful just based on quantity of entries. I believe this changes the odds of winning for those “real” people who entered. Aside from unethical, is this also illegal?

    • Sara Hawkins June 1, 2017 at 11:40 am - Reply

      Definitely poses a number of ethical concerns when an sweepstakes administrator is engaging in actions that could undermine the integrity of the promotion they are overseeing. Legally, there may be several laws that are implicated which could expose a number of parties to unintended liability.

  219. Thomas Cheung May 23, 2017 at 5:34 am - Reply

    I am hosting a sweepstakes in US. It is a random draw game, but winner require to answer a math question before he or she can redeem prizes.

    Can this consider a skill contest game and not a sweepstakes game under the US law?

    • Sara Hawkins June 1, 2017 at 11:33 am - Reply

      Under US law, adding a math question to what may otherwise be considered a sweepstakes is often insufficient to change the promotion from a sweepstakes to a contest. While this is a common means of ‘skill testing’ in jurisdictions outside the US, most US jurisdictions use what is known as the ‘predominance test’ to evaluate if a promotion is or is not actually a contest.

  220. Jeremy Johnson May 29, 2017 at 7:00 pm - Reply

    I would like to run a contest where the entrants provide a short description as to why the item up for grabs is important. Then I would like to have the best entrant voted on by my site visitors. Is this type of contest legal or is it an illegal lottery? I think it meets the criteria for a legal contest but I would appreciate your feedback.

    • Sara Hawkins June 1, 2017 at 11:37 am - Reply

      Generally speaking, a contest is one where the entrant uses some skill in an attempt to win a prize. Without knowing more, it’s impossible to know if your proposed contest meets all the legal requirements. In theory it may, but the legal questions will look at the actual implementation of the promotion.

    • John June 1, 2017 at 12:51 pm - Reply

      Hi, Jeremy, I’m not a lawyer, but it sounds suspicious to me if the judges know the entrants.

      In other words, if your site visitors are voting for their favorite descriptions, and if the visitors know who submitted what description, it then becomes a sort of favoritism.

      I would think that your judge, at least your final judge, should be someone who does not know any of the entrants, but is only voting on the best description.

      • Sara Hawkins June 3, 2017 at 10:50 am - Reply

        Public judging carries with it an inherent bias as entrants are often encourage to encourage their community to vote for them. There is not prohibition to this inherent bias so long as there are detailed rules as to how the voting works and what limitations may be applicable, and the Sponsor/Administrator ensures that the rules are complied with by all entrants and voters.

        Judges chosen by the Sponsor/Administrator should be covered by exclusion in the rules to ensure that bias does not play a role in selecting the winner. Unfair practices in contests and sweepstakes are covered by consumer protection laws and truth in advertising laws so Sponsors/Administrators should always be compliant.

  221. Yasar Ali May 31, 2017 at 3:35 am - Reply

    Wonderful Post.
    Thank you…

  222. Ryan June 1, 2017 at 8:58 am - Reply

    I want to run contest that requires skill and effort. It will have a cash prize. Does it have to be available to anyone or can it be exclusive certain group of individuals? Example: a certain age group or industry to be eligible for participation.

    • Sara Hawkins June 3, 2017 at 10:45 am - Reply

      Contests and sweepstakes can limit eligibility to specific groups, but that information not only has to be contained in the rules but also must comply with legal requirements with regard to consideration.

  223. Darryl June 3, 2017 at 11:14 am - Reply

    We want to run a contest to our Instagram and Facebook followers to submit their artwork design for a new t-shirt design for our company. We would select the best artwork for the winner and the winner would get a free custom longboard, 3 shirts and a hat. Is that legal to do?

    • Sara Hawkins July 3, 2017 at 10:54 am - Reply

      Many companies run contests like this. There are a number of legal issues that participant-generated content bring up and should be addressed. There are ways to do promotions like this that are within the bounds of the law and also manages potential liability for the sponsor/administrator, which is why rules are so important.

  224. Holly June 5, 2017 at 4:41 pm - Reply

    Hi Sara, I am wanting to run a giveaway for a brand I am currently working with and we want to use another brand vouchers as the giveaway prize, do we need to contact that brand to ask if it’s ok to use their vouchers even though we are purchasing them ourselves? Thanks!

    • Sara Hawkins July 3, 2017 at 10:49 am - Reply

      When the prize is from a company that is not associated with the promotion there are a number of disclosures that may need to be made to ensure that participants and potential participants know that the third-party business is not connected with the promotion. Use of another company trademark/trade name/trade dress or other intellectual property in a promotion they’re not involved with in a way that could make it seem like they’re supporting a brand/company creates a number of legal issues that could likely be easily avoided with a little planning.

  225. Linda Hylton June 18, 2017 at 12:41 pm - Reply

    Greetings,
    I’m wanting to have an essay contest to sell my home in the state of Kentucky. It will be 200 words with an entry fee on $149. Is this legal in Kentucky and do I have to register the contest with the state? Thank you so much for any information.

    • Sara Hawkins July 3, 2017 at 11:22 am - Reply

      Having a contest to transfer your home is very complex and not just a matter of if it’s legal in your home state. That is one consideration, but this is a complicated real estate transaction combined with a regulated activity. You should definitely consult with competent legal counsel before undertaking such a complicated promotion.

  226. Natasha June 22, 2017 at 8:23 am - Reply

    I participated in NY local restaurant Instagram contest that was advertised in the restaurant, Instagram, twitter and couple PR web sites. The short rules suggested 100 winners with rather high 300$ certificate as a prize. There were no terms published. As per my estimate there were less than 100 unique participants, so everyone should’ve win. No one contacted me in reasonable time, so I posted several comment’s on their instagram post asking for a list of winners. I received nasty reply today that has refusal to provide the list between the lines. Reading NY state law shows that they might be breaching quite a number of laws, this is my though because they didn’t have terms. Should I keep trying to mitigate or should I go ahead and file a complaint with Attorney General? Would be there any implications for me publishing their response on yelp, if I’m filing the complaint?

    • Sara Hawkins July 3, 2017 at 11:24 am - Reply

      There are a number of consumer protection laws that give consumers the legal right to post honest and factual information on review websites. Contacting the state Attorney General is always an option when a business does not comply with state law.

      • Natasha August 2, 2017 at 9:47 pm - Reply

        I filed the BBB complaint instead, as learned that Attorney General might not review such insignificant issues. Business response was that NY state law doesn’t apply to the skill based contests.
        I was quite surprised that Section 369-e of NY General Business Law being strict on games (requiring to register/post bond/report results) apparently applies to games and contests based on chance only.
        The contest ad said “100 top winners of the best photo will receive the prize”, this is it for merit and judging rules. I’m trying to find appropriate Federal Law that governs contests and only can find ones that apply to contest via Radio Broadcasting or mail.
        Is there a Federal law that requires contest holder to disclose winner names? Or to have terms and conditions of skill based contest? Can a contest be a game determined by chance?

        • Sara Hawkins August 2, 2017 at 10:34 pm - Reply

          By definition, a contest is a “game of skill” and a sweepstakes is a “game of chance”. Sweepstakes and Contests are governed by a patchwork of laws that sometimes are specific to sweepstakes or contests individually. In addition, truth in advertising laws, both state and federal, apply to sweepstakes and contest. Furthermore, there is a history of case law that has established the standards for both games of chance and games of skill.

          If the contest or sweepstakes is open to residents of various states and advertised as such, then the laws of all the states will apply. It is well-settled law that all sweepstakes and contests have rules which the participant can easily access. In addition, a short list of specific rules must be clearly and conspicuously visible to potential participant. The FTC and the FCC have rules and guidelines governing advertising and promotions which offers prizes and other incentives. In addition, general truth in advertising laws, regulations, and guidelines apply.

          While there are privacy concerns with disclosing winners, it is commonly held as a best-practice that the winners are disclosed in some fashion. For games of chance, in both NY and FL there are laws specifically addressing this issue.

          California, for example, has very details laws addressing both sweepstakes and contests. These can be found at Business and Professions Code § 17539 et seq.

          It is very frustration, for sure, to participate in a promotion which is not legally compliant. Unfortunately, many businesses do not realize there are consumer protection laws in place that govern both sweepstakes and contest that must be followed regardless of organization size.

          While it may be difficult for consumer protection departments to act on every complaint, if they are not aware of violations it’s difficult for them to do their job.

  227. Espen June 23, 2017 at 3:42 pm - Reply

    Hi, I want to have a contest on instagram. I have published some movies in a contest and I want people to vote and share these videos. I want to set up a contest with a 100 dollar reward, and the cool thing, I will give it personally. Which means I will travel to the country the winner comes from and give the prize. This is a experiment I would like to try. Is this allowed, or is there some things I have to consider?

    • Sara Hawkins July 3, 2017 at 11:28 am - Reply

      There are a couple of issues here: (1) there are many hurdles to overcome when conducting an international contest; (2) many voting contests prohibit contestants from paying to get votes. It sounds cool and I’m sure would be fun. However, from a legal perspective there are issues that need to be evaluated.

  228. Jesse Perez June 29, 2017 at 4:13 pm - Reply

    I want to create a giveaway
    idea is if customer purchases an item he/she can win a trip
    how do I go about , my idea is to place a golden ticket in the the item
    & winner is to contact us

    • Sara Hawkins July 3, 2017 at 11:51 am - Reply

      This type of promotion (it is a sweepstakes) is done quite often in different formats. The main difficulty is that the purchase of an item for a chance to win a prize is a lottery and prohibited in every state. This is why having rules and understanding how to structure the sweepstakes within the law is very important.

  229. […] to consider the monetary value of your giveaway. For instance, in the United States, if a prize is valued at $600 USD or more, the recipient will have to pay taxes on it. That may not be a problem for some larger businesses, […]

  230. Dan July 10, 2017 at 2:45 pm - Reply

    Are their specific rules for selecting a winner at random, ie “random selection by excel formula/random.org, etc. witness by a second party who affirms the selection was made at random?”

    • Sara Hawkins July 16, 2017 at 6:23 pm - Reply

      There are no specific laws that state how a winner is to be selected by random. However, if there ever a question and regulators/a court/arbitrator/mediator question how a winner was selected, having a protocol and/or some type of data would likely be helpful.

  231. Cassy July 20, 2017 at 6:29 pm - Reply

    Hi Sara, I have a question. Am I allowed to offer a chance prize in addition to a non-chance prize and be allowed to have a requirement to be entered? That’s hard to phrase right… lol. For example, say I want my sales team to push for a certain amount of sales, so I offer a raffle item if they hit a certain sales goal. If I’m understanding your article right, that would be an illegal lottery, right? But what if I said that everyone who reaches that goal gets this X Prize, and also entered to win this Y prize? Would that be allowed? I hope this makes sense…

    • Sara Hawkins July 23, 2017 at 7:50 pm - Reply

      Marketing promotions and internal sales incentives where everyone gets a prize/bonus for hitting a certain threshold are not governed by sweepstakes/contest laws. It’s like the makeup promotions where you get a Gift with Purchase for buying $50 worth of makeup.

  232. Jianna July 20, 2017 at 11:00 pm - Reply

    Thanks for your wonderful article, you write it so perfectly you’ve got really a talent for writing to keep up the work! You really helped me a lot about my website. Thank you once again

  233. Profiroiu Ioan July 25, 2017 at 9:55 am - Reply

    Hi Sara,

    I’m John from RandomWinners, a start-up from Eastern Europe which guarantees fair drawings for sweepstakes and giveaways. The aim of the product is to help the entrants to have fair sweepstakes by letting every entrant to check every entries for himself.

    In order to expand our product to the US market we plan to understand the market and the consumer perception.

    In Eastern Europe we had a great success by helping our customers raise trust & engagement in their promotions. We noticed that in US no drawings are completely transparent.
    Why do you think that is?
    Why do you think there is no specific law that state how a winner is to be selected by random?

    • Sara Hawkins July 27, 2017 at 5:19 pm - Reply

      I’m not sure there are no drawings that are completely transparent. However, full transparency is often a two-way street and Sponsors and Administrators are under the obligation to ensure that entrants are following the rules and in full compliance. That need for diligence often requires some level of non-transparent actions. I don’t know that it’s an effort to mislead anyone. Rather, the non-transparency is often an attempt to ensure the proper workings of the promotion.

      Why are there no laws about how a winner is selected by random? There are many reasons, but most likely it’s because writing laws is imprecise and rather than attempt to cover every possibility or dictate one or two possibilities, states grant the freedom to businesses to do what is best for them within the bounds of the law.

  234. Jessica August 1, 2017 at 11:01 am - Reply

    Hi! Our business would like to run a social media promotion where the prize is a bottle of champagne. I’m having trouble find the legal guidelines regarding giving alcohol as a prize. Do you have any recommendations? Thank you!

    • Sara Hawkins August 1, 2017 at 11:15 am - Reply

      No state allows alcohol related beverages (and some other products) as a prize, nor do any allow sponsors to require the purchase of alcohol. In some states a regulatory body or state authorities by law must pre-approve alcohol beverage promotions, including all related point-of-sale advertising material. Some of the following states currently have special laws regarding alcohol marketing, promotion, and advertising: Alabama, California, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, West Virginia, and Utah. The Federal Alcohol Administration Act is enforced by the Federal Alcohol and Tobacco Trade Bureau, while has rules regarding marketing, advertising, and promotion. In addition, industry groups have established guidelines that prohibit and/or restrict the use of alcohol as part of a sweepstakes or contest.

  235. Cindy August 8, 2017 at 5:02 pm - Reply

    I would like to allow those who purchase a product from me to be entered into a contest to win a car. Is this legal? What are the steps I should take to complete the process with the spirit of excellence?

    • Sara Hawkins August 19, 2017 at 1:08 pm - Reply

      Part of the answer would depend on how you are choosing your winner and what, if any, other functions your promotion will take. For sweepstakes, there must be what is commonly called a free means of entry. There are legal nuances to this so you should either research it further or speak with someone knowledgeable who can assist you. For contests (games of skill) an entry fee can be charge or a purchase required, but there are a number of states that prohibit those requirements. In addition, depending on how the contest (game of skill) is structured it could actually be deemed a sweepstakes and that would raise a number of legal issues.

  236. Matt Davidson August 9, 2017 at 5:13 pm - Reply

    Hi Sara,

    Thanks for that great info! I had a quick question for you. I am a mobile game developer. I was thinking about boosting sales by running a promotion that allows customers to enter into a cash prize draw, but only once they have reached a certain level of the game.

    I would then randomly select a winner from the qualified entries.

    The game is quite difficult, so I’m sure it could be classified as a “game of skill”. I’m just not sure if I can randomly select the winner from all of the people that have met the skill requirement.

    The game costs a small amount to download.

    Also, could I base the prize on the number of game downloads? Or do the prizes have to be set before at the time I announce the competition?

    Thanks so much for you help!

    • Sara Hawkins August 19, 2017 at 1:35 pm - Reply

      Hi Matt, you present a number of excellent questions.
      1. Prizes need to be set before the promotion begins. I have seen situations where the prize is a mystery, but in those cases the value of the prize is clearly stated and the company running the promotion has a history of doing these and their reputation is very strong.

      2. For a game of skill (contest), randomly selecting a winner changes it to a game of chance (sweepstakes) and then the promotion would have to comply with all sweepstakes laws.

      3. For games of skill, charging to enter/participate is prohibited in a number of US states and in most countries around the world.

      4. Connecting the prize to some type of participation is prohibited by a number of states and depending on how the promotion is structures and administered there could be concerns regarding gambling laws.

  237. michael August 11, 2017 at 5:54 pm - Reply

    Hi Sara. I am looking to start a sweepstakes I would believe it would be where you pay to enter to win a free HVAC system install from my company. I live and do work in Southern California. Also who would i need to contact for tax purposes.
    Thank you

    • Sara Hawkins August 19, 2017 at 2:00 pm - Reply

      California law is very clear that a mandatory payment (or other means of consideration) to enter a sweepstakes is prohibited. As for tax concerns, consult with your accountant and if they’re not familiar with what needs to be done they may have recommendations.

  238. Lee August 11, 2017 at 7:12 pm - Reply

    Dear Sara,

    Great article. I have this idea, and I don’t know if this is considered legal sweepstakes. I want to build an app, where a user of the app can record a video, and then share this video with his/her friends (or anyone in the world). His/her friends will then download this app, and try to view the video. However they have to pay $1 to view the video. Everytime, someone paid $1 and viewed the video, the original sender gets a raffle ticket, which he/she could use to enter into a sweepstakes (for example, $500 gift card). Now, the person participating in the sweepstakes didn’t spend any money, but he did record a video and shared with a bunch of people. Will this considered legal in the USA?

    Thank you

    • Sara Hawkins August 19, 2017 at 3:15 pm - Reply

      Lee, there are a number of different steps that may pose legal questions. You’ll need to discuss your specific situation with a qualified legal professional to make sure each step along the way is compliant with all legalities.

      • Lee August 21, 2017 at 4:00 pm - Reply

        Hi Sara,

        Do you provide consulting service? Or help with form a legal opinion?

        Thanks,

        Lee

        • Sara Hawkins August 30, 2017 at 9:50 am - Reply

          Lee, the best way to discuss this would be to contact me through setting up a consultation. You may do that through my ‘Contact’ page, which is linked in the header.

  239. cmg August 16, 2017 at 7:35 am - Reply

    My company is going to a trade show, and plans to give away a prize valued at ~$4000. The trade show will have nation-wide and international attendees. We will be registering participants in-person by collecting their contact information, and we will randomly select a winner. What sort of documentation do we need for the rules for who can win, and where do we need to share that documentation? Do we need to provide the winner with tax documentation, or simply the value of the prize? Because we are registering people in-person in one state, and performing the drawing in that same state, is that the only state’s laws that apply? Or does it depend on the residence of the winner regardless of which state they are standing in when they win?

    • Sara Hawkins August 19, 2017 at 3:22 pm - Reply

      The applicable laws related to where the promotion is taking place, any nexxus with other jurisdictions, and the jurisdiction of residence of the entrants or targeted participants. Official rules should be crafted for the promotion, especially since it’s possible that not all attendees can participate. Running a sweepstakes for non-US residents can be difficult. Even adding Canada presents challenges because Canada does not recognize games of chance for consumers. Many countries in Europe have language restrictions, as well as other entry limitations. For US residents, any prize valued at $600 or more requires reporting to the IRS. There may be similar requirements for other countries.

      • cmg August 24, 2017 at 7:12 am - Reply

        Thanks!

  240. Brian August 18, 2017 at 1:51 pm - Reply

    I have an idea to give and I’m open to construct it as a contest or sweepstakes, whichever is legal. I’d like to giveaway roughly a $700 prize, US only. I sell clothing. My original idea was to give away this prize for every 1,000 sold. To enter the giveaway though, people must go to my facebook page and post a selfie wearing the clothing. Since they must take this action is this legal? If not, is there any way to include wearing the clothing at all? If I do it as a contest where they must write a paragraph telling me why I must choose them and require them to post a selfie wearing the clothing is this acceptable? Thanks for your time.

    • Sara Hawkins August 19, 2017 at 3:25 pm - Reply

      There are a number of different ways to structure promotions as you mention. However, you should contact a knowledgeable legal professional to obtain legal advice so you know the exact promotion you want to do is legally compliant. There are a number of different questions presented that entail providing legal advices, which is beyond the scope of this post and reply.

  241. Scott August 22, 2017 at 4:20 pm - Reply

    Here’s a gray area question:

    If I am offering an identical gift/incentive to EVERY person who pre-orders a future product, is that still a sweepstakes or lottery? There’s no element of chance, but it’s rather a purchase incentive/bonus.

    • Sara Hawkins August 30, 2017 at 9:42 am - Reply

      The ‘gift with purchase’ marketing program is not covered by sweepstakes/lottery laws. Instead, if all purchasers will obtain the ‘gift’ that’s covered by traditional marketing and truth in advertising laws. The cosmetics industry has successfully used the ‘gift with purchase’ marketing paradigm for decades.

  242. Danielle August 28, 2017 at 1:37 pm - Reply

    I entered a contest on Instagram about making videos the company even reposted one of my videos on their company page. The contest according to the rules they set ended last week and the date they stated they would announce the winner has passed and they have yet to announce one. What if anything can I do?

    • Sara Hawkins August 30, 2017 at 9:35 am - Reply

      If you believe that a contest was administered in violation of platform Terms of Service, there is a “Report” mechanism on each post that can be used to inform Instagram. Each state attorney general has a consumer protection division that fields consumer complaints, so you may want to look up that information to determine if you want to report your concern. In addition, the Federal Trade Commission has a complaint reporting service on their website (ftc.gov). The FTC, however, does not address complaints individually. Instead, the FTC gathers the information to determine how to address the general concern. Best of luck!

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  244. Jennifer W August 30, 2017 at 12:26 pm - Reply

    What about doing a giveaway for the first X# of people that show up – no purchase necessary, but you could upgrade your free item and end up paying if you want to. Where does that fall in the sweepstakes/contest categories so we know where to find the proper set of rules

    • Sara Hawkins September 7, 2017 at 4:25 pm - Reply

      If everyone gets something while supplies last, that is called a giveaway (despite people misusing the word all the time) and is not governed by sweepstakes or contest laws. Instead, it must comply with state and federal laws regarding marketing and advertising.

  245. Jaime Lannister September 5, 2017 at 8:36 am - Reply

    Sara,

    I am wanting to create an app where the user just needs to open the app and press the “Enter Giveaway” button to enter the month long giveaway. The app will contain ads which, as the month goes on, add monetary value to the prize pool. The user can only enter once per day, but may watch a short advertisement to gain an additional entry for that day.

    Are there any laws regarding this? I have thought to have some quick “skill” game that the user is required to complete to enter the drawing.

    Thoughts?

    Thank you!

    • Sara Hawkins September 7, 2017 at 4:28 pm - Reply

      You may be calling your promotion a giveaway, but it is more likely a sweepstakes. Thus, it should comply with federal and state laws governing sweepstakes.

  246. Amanda Long September 6, 2017 at 9:32 am - Reply

    Hi Sara,
    I am working with a local PTA and to get more engagement from parents, we are teaming up with some local businesses who will donate $10-$20 contents/sweepstake prizes. We ask them to comment on the post to enter. We’d like to limit the sweepstakes to only those who have children attending the school, is this something we can do?

    • Sara Hawkins September 7, 2017 at 4:29 pm - Reply

      Sweepstakes can be limited to entrants who meet certain eligibility requirements. This is why official rules are so important. Rules give notice to individuals so potential participants know if they are eligible.

      • Amanda Long September 29, 2017 at 8:07 am - Reply

        Thanks Sara!! 🙂 Do you have a generic Rules form that is a good starting point?

        • Sara Hawkins October 4, 2017 at 1:04 pm - Reply

          Hi Amanda, I do not have generic templates. I prepare custom rules for my clients because I don’t feel a generic template can adequately address the needs of each promotion.

  247. Dunnea Rae September 10, 2017 at 8:28 am - Reply

    A local car dealership has a button on their site that says “enter to win a new car”, which when clicked, pops up a basic blank form fro capturing name, address, email and phone. No confirmation page after entering info, like “thanks, we have received your entry”. No confirmation email received. No info about the “contest” is to be found anywhere on the site. Is this legal? Shouldn’t they have the contest terms posted? I wrote to them and asked for terms of contest, especially the end date. I got a call from a car salesman who said he was sure it was to be found somewhere on the site. It is certainly not on the site. I did not argue the point. He asked me the usual stuff a car sales person does about my needs and intentions to buy a car. I said I intend to win a car, which is why I want to know the terms of the contest. Is this car dealership doing something illegal in their “contest” entry method? Thank you – you are the only source I see online for answering this question – I appreciate your time.

    • Sara Hawkins September 10, 2017 at 5:11 pm - Reply

      If a business is attempting to collect personal information using a ruse, there are a host of legal issues raised. In addition, setting up a sign-up form saying that by completing the form you’re signing up to enter a sweepstakes/contest when that is not true creates other legal issues related to privacy protections, truth in advertising, as well as claims of fraud. Furthermore, all states require that sweepstakes and contests have rules, especially in the states of NY and FL where sweepstakes with prizes having a value over $5000 must be registered and bonded. If you believe there is a violation of consumer protection laws, truth in advertising laws, or sweepstakes/contest laws you should contact your state attorney general consumer protection division, the state attorney general where the business is located, and/or the Federal Trade Commission.

    • John K in SC September 10, 2017 at 5:27 pm - Reply

      I’m not a lawyer, but I know that all rules must be available on request. They don’t necessarily have to post the rules at the same place as the method of entry, but my understanding is that any entry method must include instructions on how to get a copy of the rules.

      When you contacted the dealer asking for a copy of the rules, they broke the law by not supplying you with a copy of the rules, or when they could not give you a specific link to the rules.

      Sounds to me like it’s not a sweepstakes, but just a means of collecting potential customer information.

      • Sara Hawkins September 10, 2017 at 5:38 pm - Reply

        While the rules do not have to be posted in their entirety on the same page as the method of entry, the rules should be easily accessible from that page. In addition, certain aspects of the rules must be clearly and conspicuously placed on the same page as the entry. Those include minimum age of entry, whether a purchase is required (which, if it’s a sweepstakes no purchase should be necessary),and residency requirements/limitations.

        You are correct that if asking for a copy of the rules or where to find the rules online that information on how to obtain the rules should be provided.

  248. Kayleigh September 18, 2017 at 1:36 pm - Reply

    Last week I entered a contest for a flyaway vacation to Nashville Tennessee airfare hotel Brad paisley meet and greets and grand old Opry tickets included basically all expense paid for three days. They posted on their Instagram and I liked and commented on that as well. Friday my grandfather was in the hospital and Saturday morning I open Instagram to see posts that I was tagged in from the morning hangover which is the website and online entity that I entered the contest for saying that I won the flyaway Brad Paisley contest and I needed to contact them immediately. They tagged me a total of three times on Friday in the span of a one hour timeframe . On Saturday when I seen it I got extremely excited and started screaming only to then look at their Instagram post and see that they tag somebody else and hour after me and said that they won. I don’t know if I’m wrong but I can’t see how they can only give somebody a one hour period of time to clean something to this magnitude of a contest when it wasn’t previously stated that you needed to clean it within one hour anywhere. On the website that I am including their official website the contest rules aren’t even for this contest it’s for a very old rascal Flatts contest and nothing on even that set of rules says that I need to claim within one hour that I can see. Saturday right after I seen it I contact them Instagram Facebook and two or three different email addresses that I could find and I still to this day have not gotten any response from them. Today I get an email from them in the form of a news letter congratulating the winner that they chose after me. I have never been so disgusted devastated and sad and angry in my entire life. I don’t feel like this is real or professional or legal. You didn’t call me email me or privately contact me in any way. I even think the posts I made on their Instagram they deleted some of them. I screenshot everything though as it was happening.

    • Sara Hawkins September 23, 2017 at 2:59 pm - Reply

      Unfortunately, what you describe is becoming more and more common. Organizations fail to have rules, yet claim noncompliance by participants. If you feel like the law was violated, contact your state attorney general consumer protection division and/or file a claim with the FTC. If it’s a radio station the FCC also has jurisdiction. You may also want to write a letter to the CEO. The FTC and FCC do not enforce private actions but if there is a problem those agencies can act on behalf of all consumers. Your state attorney general consumer protection division may be able to help you individually. And, well, you can also contact one of those news consumer helplines and see if they can help. If you have the financial means, contacting an attorney in your area may be helpful.

  249. Pat Hackbarth September 19, 2017 at 1:11 pm - Reply

    Our veteran’s non-profit 501(c)19 group is holding a convention and we were awarded a cruise ticket and paid $700 for a certificate for up to 7 days for two to Mexico or the Caribbean. We are looking to hold a sweepstakes. Our chapters are located throughout the 50 states. We want to mail each chapter president tickets to sell to the association’s members and their friends and family, with the winner of the one certificate to be drawn at our convention in 2018. Reading the Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act (DMPE), I understand certain disclosures must be made on the solicitation letter, the entry form, and the official rules. If we put “VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW” does that protect the members of the convention committee and the parent organization from penalty? Please advise. Thank you so much. I have had my head in so many laws and regulations.

    • Sara Hawkins September 23, 2017 at 2:52 pm - Reply

      The DMPE applies to consumer promotions. If an organization is sending out literature and ticket to its chapters that likely is not within the definition of the DMPE. However, the DMPE is quite complex. In addition, without knowing the rules of your promotion it’s unclear if it really is a sweepstakes. You use the phrase ‘sell to the association’s members’ which may or may not make the promotion a sweepstakes. In addition, most states require non-profit organization to be registered in the state where fundraising takes place. Simply adding ‘VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW’ would not necessarily insulate the organization or members from liability.

  250. Cathy L. September 20, 2017 at 7:38 am - Reply

    I want to have a weight loss contest for Washington DC residents as a promotion for my new fitness business. There is a registration fee and registrants will get to attend classes, workouts, a free tee shirt, etc. The participants are judged on body fat loss, inches lost, etc. and there will be one winner. One cash prize. I think this qualifies as a contest but I do not find any DC laws or regulations for contests. What do I need to consider? Thank you.

    • Sara Hawkins September 23, 2017 at 3:49 pm - Reply

      I do not believe DC has specific laws regarding the operation of games of skill within the DC jurisdiction by private businesses. All rules and guidelines set out by case law and generally acceptable principles would likely need to be employed.

      • c November 13, 2017 at 11:11 am - Reply

        Would California have a law if a private business is running it and it is open to participants country and internationally wide?

        • Sara Hawkins November 16, 2017 at 8:18 pm - Reply

          California sweepstakes/contest laws apply to anyone operating a sweepstakes/contest that operates in California and allows participation by California residents. The laws of the specific jurisdiction would apply to each location where the sweepstakes/contest is being operated. That being said, California may have other laws that govern the business conduct (i.e., fraud, truth in advertising).

  251. Amanda Miller September 25, 2017 at 6:00 am - Reply

    Hello, I won a LulaRoe giveaway. 4 tickets to disneyland, a 3 night hotel stay and $500 in clothing. Do I have to pay taxes on it? They never said anything about claiming it in their giveaway. Thank you.

    • Sara Hawkins October 4, 2017 at 1:15 pm - Reply

      If the official rules did not state who would be responsible for taxes, it’s unclear who bears that burden. They can say it’s ‘common knowledge’ or that the law requires you to pay the taxes but neither are necessarily true. Even if the official rules did not state who is responsible for taxes it could have been in the winner affidavit. Without being clear, it could be argued that the sponsor is responsible for paying the winner’s tax liability. While uncommon, it’s not unheard of. There appears to be a discrepancy that needs to be resolved.

  252. Sylvia R McClain September 27, 2017 at 1:43 am - Reply

    Hi Sara! Great job on your very informative blog! I have a quick question regarding entry “confirmations”; if a page says “print this for your records” is that just for your own personal records or do you have to have this when you win as proof of entry? I don’t see anywhere in the official rules that requires this for receiving the prize but I don’t understand why they would make a comment like that on an entry unless they will use it as a loophole for not paying out??? What are your thoughts? I don’t want to have a ton of print jobs for entries when it may not be necessary. I look forward to hearing from you. P.S. It is from a reputable magazine sweep if that makes any difference.

    • Sara Hawkins October 4, 2017 at 1:23 pm - Reply

      If official rules require proof of entry from a confirmation page it should say so clearly. Most contests/sweepstakes do not require “proof of entry” because it’s not dispositive that the entry is indeed valid. Many entry programs will say to save things for your records as a default. Without having read the rules or details, it’s unclear why that statement would be provided other than as a suggestion.

  253. Peter Chen October 1, 2017 at 2:46 pm - Reply

    Hi Sara,

    I’m thinking of giving custom scratch off tickets to my customers who make a purchase and they can scratch off to reveal a discount code that can be used on my website. Am I exempt from any sweepstakes or contest rules?

    • Sara Hawkins October 4, 2017 at 1:27 pm - Reply

      Peter, it depends how the promotion is structured. Most retail scratch-off discount programs are administered as marketing/sales promotions and do not meet the definition of a sweepstakes or contest. However, that question is a matter of how the promotion is structured.

  254. Amna P. October 1, 2017 at 7:52 pm - Reply

    Hi Sara,

    Although your article is worth a lot to me as a blogger, I have a question as a winner. I won Instagram sweepstakes, where the requirements were simple, following them and tagging some friends. The prize is $500 shop credit, they are in the US, and I’m a Canadian resident.

    My question seems to be so hard to find an answer to: if I accept the prize, will I be liable to any taxes in the US?

    Thank you in advance!

    • Sara Hawkins October 4, 2017 at 1:51 pm - Reply

      This is actually a multi-part question and is quite complicated because it involves taxes. First, you may be responsible for paying duties on products shipped into Canada from other countries, even if they are “free” because they are purchased with prize winnings. Second, all prizes over $600 must be reported to the US Internal Revenue Service and taxes withheld. For prizes under $500, this reporting requirement and associated payment of taxes is optional. So, regardless of residency, a prize of $500 value may not necessarily be reported. If it is, and taxes are withheld, it is up to the non-US resident/citizen to seek a refund by filing a Non-Resident Tax Return (IRS FORM 1040NR). It’s not an easy determination as to whether the taxes are refundable because it depends on how they’re classified on the form reported to the IRS. You should consult your tax professional to determine what tax liabilities you may have.

  255. Jason October 5, 2017 at 8:33 am - Reply

    Hi Sara,

    Wanted some advice on what I can and can’t do. I want to do an iPhone/iPad/Or other popular item giveaway on my instagram account and website. Users go to a giveaway page, with listed amount of entries before giveaway closes for random selection (entries total sum required to pay for items).

    To submit an entry users are required to complete free mobile app install offers (these help pay for the giveaway items, profit left over I keep for running the giveaway, no one ever pays a cent out of their pocket).

    When giveaway is ran people are e-mailed to the address they gave where at a set time they can visit our website and see random people selected (with a chatroom) to see if they win or not live. Giveaway is Global, there is no restriction.

    Any legalities or age restrictions? And if I do run it am I allowed to post the instagram accounts of the users who won on the page as proof of recent winners?

    • Sara Hawkins October 11, 2017 at 12:55 pm - Reply

      You’re really looking for legal advice, which is beyond the scope of these comments. There are a number of legal issues that need to be considered so you should seek advice from a legal professional knowledgeable in this area.

  256. Alex October 12, 2017 at 8:01 am - Reply

    Can an ecommerce site (legally) run a sweepstakes that requires participants to sign up for a free rewards program or email newsletter?

    Thanks for the great article.

    • Sara Hawkins October 30, 2017 at 6:47 pm - Reply

      Perhaps the site can legally require participants to sign up for a rewards program or email. If the rules require it and the structure of the sweepstakes meets all other legal requirements it’s possible. An examination of the rules would be required, which is beyond the scope of these comments.

      • Mark December 17, 2017 at 12:41 pm - Reply

        On this topic, can a giveaway of a private company through their own software require a facebook account be started just to enter a promo they declare is not affiliated with facebook in any way?

        Entry requires posting and sharing of entry. Because of how Facebook is purely marketing sales per user, I feel as though it is requiring me to monetize myself to facebook for the sake of a simple contest entry. I would see no benefit of the account aside the entry but in short I simply will not create a facebook account.

        Is this legal on their part since they state clearly it is not facebook related? (they used to do facebook related giveaways but kept violating rules of FB giveaways.)

        • Sara Hawkins December 22, 2017 at 6:13 pm - Reply

          This isn’t so much a legal question as it is a question about complying with the terms of use for Facebook. Facebook has very specific guidelines for the use of the platform for online sweepstakes/contests. Failure to abide by those guidelines can result in the Page/Profile being suspended or taken down. Facebook promotions can only be administered on a Page. Facebook, as of this reply, specifically prohibits certain types of user engagement. Alleged violations of Facebook rules/guidelines can be reported directly to the platform.

  257. Patricia B. October 13, 2017 at 3:31 pm - Reply

    Hi Sara,

    I was the Grand Prize winner of a recent online sweepstakes and the Official Rules state the Grand Prize to be a specific TV, size & model number – ARV $499

    I received the TV today, but it’s not the model number as stated in the Official Rules. The TV I received is a lesser model & a lot less expensive than the one stated as the Grand Prize in the Official Rules. I emailed the sponsor and I was told that originally they were going to give the higher model number TV, but then they changed it so the winner wouldn’t have to pay the taxes. The sponsor said they forgot to change it in the rules & offered me “extra swag” instead.

    I’d rather have the higher model TV, I don’t need the “swag”.

    What are my rights as a consumer? The Sponsor is in CA and I live in NC

    Thank you in advance for any insight you may have into this matter.

    • Sara Hawkins October 30, 2017 at 6:45 pm - Reply

      If you feel that you did not receive the prize that was advertised you may want to contact the consumer protection bureau at the Attorney General in the state where you reside and where the sponsor is located.

  258. Val November 13, 2017 at 12:36 pm - Reply

    Hi Sara,

    I have a question about the legality of running a sweepstakes to gain online reviews (such as google, Facebook, BBB, etc.). I have done some research and have received mixed answers. I’ve read it is okay if you do not ask for “positive” reviews but also read that it is illegal to run a contest for reviews in general.

    Would you be able to clarify this for me?

    Thanks!

    • Sara Hawkins November 16, 2017 at 8:22 pm - Reply

      There are no sweepstakes/contest laws that specifically dictate what type of consideration can or can not be requested, other than to say you can’t ask people to engage in illegal activity. It is generally held, with regard to reviews, that asking for positive reviews is a violation of truth in advertising and unfair competition laws. The FTC would also require that any reviews as part of a sweepstakes/contest entry be fully disclosed as being provided in exchange for entry.

  259. Accident Prone November 19, 2017 at 5:55 pm - Reply

    Hi Sara,

    Your site is very informative. I have a question that seems to be be in a grey area. I was considering doing a Bitcoin fundraiser/giveaway until I was dismayed by all the hoops out there. Forgive and redirect me if you’ve answered this before, there are a lot of comments/questions here. Short story is I wanted to do a Twitter Bitcoin fundraiser for myself and family as I was badly injured in a MVA by a drunk driver and can no longer support my family by working a regular job. Anyway, my thought was a twitter donation campaign and then I’d giveaway 50% of Bitcoin raised to maybe 10 random people live-streamed with a twitter randomizer at the end of a month or so. I see now this is probably totally illegal and am losing hope of trying to raise funds this way. Bitcoin is a controversial subject, but it seems to be in a class of it’s own as far as the law goes. Is it treated any differently legally as far as these subjects go? Any information or direction would be appreciated. I understand you do not give legal advice.

    Regards,
    Accident Prone

    • Sara Hawkins November 25, 2017 at 9:44 am - Reply

      With regard to raising money using Bitcoin, use of the Bitcoin or other crypto-currency really isn’t the issue. In addition, there are a host of sites that allow people to raise money for many different reasons. The problems arise when part of the money raised is going to be given away as a prize. That sounds a lot like a sweepstakes (winner chosen at random) [or contest (winner chosen based on skill)] and in both instances most states prohibit a portion of the purchase/entry fee to be used as a prize. The basis for that is states highly regulate gambling and that process looks a lot like gambling.

      • Paige December 14, 2017 at 7:12 pm - Reply

        Sara: I could not see where to post a question. I entered a contest thru a major company And The contest lays out specific rules you have to follow and you do but the winner they picked failed to follow the rules . I contacted them and they said they had a clause that said they could change the rules anytime. But what if you had already entered and had no idea the rules have changed? Wouldn’t they be required to post the rules were changing while the contest was going on? They state they are allowed to change the rules after its ended . This doesn’t seem
        Ethical or legal ? Thoughts?

        • Sara Hawkins December 22, 2017 at 6:09 pm - Reply

          Changing rules for a sweepstakes/contest after it has started is not looked upon favorably. While the rules may say the Sponsor/Administrator can change the rules for any reason, the reason should not be to undermine the integrity of the promotion.

          If the rules are changed, the suggested practice is to make notice of the change on the official rules. If it impacts those who have already entered, they should be notified. While there are no exact laws that detail what changes can be made in official rules, there are both state and federal consumer protection and fraud laws that will govern a sweepstakes/contest in addition to the sweepstakes/contest laws specifically.

          Changing rules after a promotion begins or failing to follow your own rules for administering the promotion raise concerns that should be avoided.

  260. Bob November 27, 2017 at 6:08 pm - Reply

    I would like to offer a rewards program to my eBay shoppers where, if my NFL team wins, then they will get a discount on or store credit for their same-day purchase.

    I see that Papa Johns and other companies offer similar discounts if a regional NFL team wins.

    Would I have to take many compliance steps to ensure that I don’t run afoul with things?

    • Sara Hawkins December 21, 2017 at 2:53 pm - Reply

      Papa Johns is an official NFL sponsor and thus likely has rights to use of the NFL’s trademarks, trade names, logos, etc. The NFL, as do most teams, polices use of their intellectual property quite diligently and they do pursue individuals and organization who do not have authorization to use their intellectual property.

      • John January 3, 2018 at 1:48 am - Reply

        So if i win a giveaway and im under 18 can i tell anyone that i won or would something happen?

        • Sara Hawkins January 14, 2018 at 10:05 am - Reply

          You can tell people you won but you may risk being disqualified if the rules require entrants to be 18 or older.

  261. Lance November 29, 2017 at 9:45 pm - Reply

    A question I can’t find a direct answer to…

    If I were to have a business that wanted to help people with student loans, premise being: After x amount of products sold, we would randomly select two customers that would receive up to a $500 payment from my company, but paid directly to their student loan lender on their behalf, from the “pool” we are setting aside from all sales.
    This would be paid out as many times as we can turn over that many products again… am I violating any sweepstakes rules?

    • Sara Hawkins December 21, 2017 at 3:00 pm - Reply

      US Sweepstakes require a means of entry that does not require a purchase/considertion so I suggest you speak with a knowledgeable attorney before undertaking such a promotion to ensure full compliance.

  262. […] media community guidelines (Kerry O’Shea Gorgone has an amazing article on this) and much extra (Sara F. Hawkins has a put up all about weblog giveaway it’s best to actually […]

  263. Tracy December 22, 2017 at 12:56 am - Reply

    Hi! I’m curious if there’s any recourse against a company that hosted a promotion that you won (and you have email verification from that company of the win) but then that company has refused to send you the prizes that you won?

    • Sara Hawkins December 22, 2017 at 6:26 pm - Reply

      State attorney general’s have a consumer protection division to help consumers who may have been wronged. You may wish to contact the state attorney general for the state in which you live and the state in which the business operates, if different, to find out if they can assist you.

  264. Jeremy Mills December 29, 2017 at 9:09 am - Reply

    Hi! Loved the read. It was very informative.

    I am wanting to donate a prize (estimated value $500) to a company (LLC, not a charity) to use in a fundraising drive. We were talking about structuring it by setting a donation goal, and if it is met, anyone that donated during that time is automatically entered into a drawing for the prize.

    From reading the post and other comments, it sounds like this would fall under a sweepstakes with eligibility requirements? It would be advertised in a closed, member-only forum, but members of the forum are scattered all over the US. Does this add more of a headache than it’s worth?

    • Sara Hawkins January 29, 2018 at 7:56 am - Reply

      Fundraising tied to sweepstakes (winner chosen at random) can be tricky because there are separate laws related to soliciting donations. While you may consider your request for donations to be different than asking for payment to enter, it’s merely semantics and doesn’t change the fact that the intent is to limit the pool of winners to those who provide consideration for an entry into a promotion where the winner is chosen randomly. That turns a sweepstakes into a lottery.

      Having eligibility requirements for entry is fine, so long as those requirements are legally permitted.

      Nearly all states have strict laws covering solicitation for donations.

  265. Hector January 1, 2018 at 11:50 pm - Reply

    Hello Sara,
    Thank you for such informative article! But I’m still a little unsure about were I stand here.
    If I have a website that let’s people buy a “surprise gift box” for $5 (the user doesn’t know of the content). Before buying, the user agrees to the terms and conditions of ordering a service that offers a surpise box with an unknown gift inside.
    Would this be considered under any of the explained categories? Or am I safe from any legal trouble?
    Thank you so much!

    • Sara Hawkins January 29, 2018 at 8:28 am - Reply

      Promotion such as this are usually considered contests. You’ll want to research this more to understand the law related to this type of promotion.

  266. Joseph Harmon January 8, 2018 at 5:49 pm - Reply

    Regarding “#2. Who can enter – detail who is allowed to enter, as well as those excluded”, under your “Checklist for your giveaway”, can I restrict who can enter by having an exclusive group of people? For example, let’s say I have 100 people who I want to offer my sweepstakes to, they have not purchased anything from me or given me any consideration, but I want only those 100 people to be eligible to enter my sweepstakes on my public website. Any issues?

    • Sara Hawkins January 29, 2018 at 8:32 am - Reply

      Limited Entry sweepstakes/contests are allowed but if you are going to limit the entry to a certain group of people you’ll need to consider how the promotion is communicated and promoted.

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  268. Ronny Craig January 18, 2018 at 11:10 pm - Reply

    If a lottery is determined based upon Chance, Prize and
    Consideration-would Online Sweeps that require entrants to:
    Like, Share, Tweet, Retweet, Refer others, Follow,
    Watch a video, View a web page, Sign up for …., and more
    fall under the Consideration condition due to the actions
    benefiting the promotion promoter?

    Also, because the existence of the following companies is
    based upon the ‘enter to win’ model using the conditions I
    previously listed.
    Woobox
    Aptivada
    Viralsweep
    UpViral
    Gleam
    Rafflecopter
    PromoSimple
    HelloWorld

    • Sara Hawkins April 25, 2018 at 11:20 am - Reply

      While there is no set case law or statutory guidance as to if any of those mentioned social media engagements are, indeed, consideration, if evaluated, it is quite likely they would be deemed consideration. As such, a sweepstakes that incorporates those entry options should also include an entry option that does not require any of those actions.

      The confusion comes when these various entry methods are options after completing a mandatory entry option that would not meet the definition of consideration.

      For example, you can find sweepstakes that says something like ‘buy this soda and look under the cap for a code/free prize’. Obviously, that’s a purchase to enter. However, all their marketing says ‘No purchase necessary.’. How can they do that? Well, if you read the rules there is a way to obtain an entry w/o buying the soda. It may not be splashed across the marketing or in big letters, but it’s in the rules.

      Same with social media promotions, there may be entries that would be deemed consideration but you have to read the rules to see if there is a “free” entry. If so, then there would need to be a review of those rules to determine if they are legally compliant. If there are no rules, then a number of red flags would be raised.

  269. Jessica Lurvey January 19, 2018 at 1:14 pm - Reply

    Hello,
    I was wondering i entered into the promotional giveaway and i was selected to win the vacation trip. So they asked me to fill out some paper work and i did and they would have the company that was in charge contact me. So they ended up contacted me and started asking me question like my age, my income, if im engaged and verifying my information on the paper work i filled out. Then they proceeded to ask me if i was familer with the resort that was offering the promotional give away and i replyed “Yes, i use to work at the resort.” Then the lady on the phone proceeded to tell me im sorry you no longer qualify for this promotion since you worked here in the past. So in regards my question is, Is it legal to deny someone a promotional giveaway because they use to work for the company in a total different department?

    • Sara Hawkins January 29, 2018 at 7:45 am - Reply

      The short answer is yes, it is legal to deny entry or winning based on a person’s current or former employment. However, if this criteria is not set out in the official rules then using it to invalidate a potential winner could violate consumer protection laws. Check with your state’s Attorney General consumer protection division for more information.

  270. Hai Ly January 20, 2018 at 8:27 am - Reply

    Hi Sarah,

    Thank you for the article. I just have one question. Are there any limitations on what your sweepstake rules can be? Ex. Prize will be given only when there’s at least 1000 entries.

    Thank you.
    Hai

    • Sara Hawkins March 27, 2018 at 7:31 pm - Reply

      There are a number of limitations because the rules need to be compliant with all state and federal laws relating to sweepstakes, marketing, consumer promotions, advertising, etc. There are ways to have an entry threshold but you need to know how to structure the promotion and the language to ensure compliance. There is no book or guide on all the nuances of running a sweepstakes.

  271. Otto Smothen January 20, 2018 at 11:24 pm - Reply

    Sara –

    Can you give a little insight on essay contests targeted at high school students? I’ve seen these structured as scholarships – presumably as a way to give money to a winner under 18 years old. And generally the sponsor would want rights to publish the winning essay, plus perhaps other non winning essays. That seems like it would be consideration, but since it’s a contest not a sweepstakes does the consideration issue even matter?

    • Sara Hawkins March 27, 2018 at 7:34 pm - Reply

      In most states, a contest can charge an entry fee. Consideration is what the entrant pays or does to enter the promotion. Writing an essay would likely be classified as consideration. Calling something a scholarship doesn’t change the fact that it really is a contest. Licenses and/or releases would need to be part of the rules to gain rights to publish/use an entrant’s essay.

  272. Kevin January 21, 2018 at 11:55 am - Reply

    Hi Sarah,

    Great article and thanks so much for all the information!

    I have a question – if you are running a sweepstakes / giveaway and the giveaway prize is another brands/companies product. Do I need to have that companies permission to give away their product?

    For example let’s say I want to give away a Sony TV. When I advertise my giveaway sweepstakes I want to advertise the prize is a Sony TV. Do I have to get Sony’s permission to do this?

    Thank you!
    Kevin

    • Sara Hawkins March 27, 2018 at 7:40 pm - Reply

      Under the First Sale doctrine, generally, the purchaser of a product can transfer ownership as they wish. The issues comes with using the intellectual property of the manufacturer to market your promotion. Under the trademark doctrine of nominative fair use a third party can use the trademark of a company to describe the product or service to the public. However, you would need to ensure that all entrant as well as recipients of your marketing know that the brand is not affiliated with the promotion. Some companies have detailed information on their website about using their product/brand names in marketing and sales promotions. It would be highly unusual for a company to provide an unaffiliated third party permission to use their product/brand name.

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  274. Brent Gonzalez January 31, 2018 at 11:52 am - Reply

    Is it illegal for a company to hold a sweepstakes and have people enter thinking they are going to win something but it’s just a ploy to get email info and the company never actually gives away the prize people think they were entering for?

    • Sara Hawkins February 27, 2018 at 1:37 pm - Reply

      Consumer protection laws, as well as privacy laws, prohibit individuals/companies from promising one things but doing something different. Accepting entries into a promotion that is simply a ruse to obtain email addresses is likely both a state and federal consumer protection violation.

  275. Kaylee February 2, 2018 at 10:16 pm - Reply

    Hi Sara! Thanks for this post. If my website has a section that’s only open to paying users (basically it’s a membership fee), and I organize a sweepstakes that is only open to my paying members, would that membership fee count as consideration to enter into the sweepstakes? Thanks!!!

    • Sara Hawkins February 27, 2018 at 2:26 pm - Reply

      Kaylee, this is an ‘it depends’ answer because it depends on how the actual promotion is structured, how it’s advertised, how entry is made, and what type of marketing is done with regard to the membership and the sweepstakes.

      It is possible to do ‘closed group’ sweepstakes (e.g., only members of a specific bank, only mortgage holders) but it’s not a straightforward as one might assume.

  276. Dave February 10, 2018 at 10:36 am - Reply

    If I win a house raffle in the UK, as a US Citizen, am I allowed to take ownership of the home assuming I meet the UK’s laws? I live in New Jersey.

    • Sara Hawkins March 2, 2018 at 9:14 pm - Reply

      Plenty of US Citizens own real property in the UK. If you qualify to own real property and meet all the requirements set out for owning a home in the UK then you’d be given ownership. I don’t know if you’d qualify for ownership of real property so you’d have to investigate that.

  277. Chanel February 10, 2018 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    Hi, I want to see if I need a permit or something for this. My company has a rewards program. You get points for every dollar you spend. Is it legal to give away a product for consumers that reach a certain amount of points? If it’s legal, do I need a permit for it?

    • Sara Hawkins March 2, 2018 at 9:16 pm - Reply

      Marketing promotions must comply with consumer protection laws. There is no prohibition on rewards programs in general and no state or federal agency requires a permit to run a rewards program.

  278. Tiffany February 19, 2018 at 4:54 pm - Reply

    Hi! I recently entered a Facebook valentines contest where you comment the name of your valentine on a Nissan dealerships post and the name with the most likes wins $1000. It stated the contest ended the 18th but when I woke on the 19th I looked at the page and we had clearly won by a hundred votes over the person who was closest to us but the dealership changed the rules on the 19th to state the contest didn’t end until the 28th! I messaged them and they told me the date of the 18th was a typo and they meant to say the 28th. Can you just change an end date for a contest after it ends?

    • Sara Hawkins March 27, 2018 at 7:49 pm - Reply

      Changing the dates of a contest or sweepstakes after they have started is not permitted unless there is language in the official rules indicating the parameters under which such a change could occur. You’d have to look at the official rules of the promotion to determine what, if any, language exists to allow for such a change.

  279. Ratna February 21, 2018 at 10:25 am - Reply

    Hi Sara,
    I just stumbled across a few of our posts and each of them were excellent!

    I had a quick question regarding the ‘Who can enter’ portion. If a company does not advertise the promotion in the foreign country, are they still subject to the other country’s rules if one of their citizens enter?

    • Sara Hawkins March 2, 2018 at 9:35 pm - Reply

      Where the promotion is advertised can be one factor in determining what laws apply, especially if there are no or vague rules. It would be important to have official rules which provide any requirements or restrictions as to who can enter. With the internet easily crossing borders, having detailed rules can prevent a business from running afoul of laws they may not have intended to apply.

      If a promotion is run in the US, does not have clear rules, and allows non-US citizens/non-US residents to enter then the Sponsor/Administrator could be opening themselves up to needing to comply with laws of other countries.

  280. Sweeps Games February 22, 2018 at 2:38 am - Reply

    I was able to find good advice from your blog articles.I had great experience with Sweeps Games.

  281. Macheal February 22, 2018 at 10:57 pm - Reply

    This content is very interesting and a very informative information to read. Thank you for sharing a very great content of yours. Just keep up the good work!

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  283. Darin March 5, 2018 at 4:02 pm - Reply

    Hi Sara,
    I was curious if a company has a legal requirement to disclose participants when requested? Who can request a list of participants and when do they have to be released?
    Thanks

    • Sara Hawkins March 27, 2018 at 7:53 pm - Reply

      The sponsor/administrator of a sweepstakes/contest is not required to provide a list of participants. A list of winners is to be made available, but the list should not provide information that would allow any third party to individually identify the winner so as to contact them. For example, a winner could be listed as ‘Wendy from Des Moines, or ‘Wendy P., Iowa’. If the promotion was registered in NY and/or FL, or should have have, both states require a Statement of Winners.

  284. Rebekah April 1, 2018 at 6:59 pm - Reply

    Hi Sarah,

    Question, I am going to give away a trip. Would I need to have the winners sign something releasing me from responsibility while they are on the trip?

    • Sara Hawkins April 25, 2018 at 10:57 am - Reply

      It is always recommended to obtain appropriate releases from the winner of a prize that could impact the sponsor’s and/or administrator’s exposure to liability.

  285. Go Keyboard Download April 14, 2018 at 8:48 am - Reply

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  286. Kristi May 3, 2018 at 7:47 am - Reply

    If you are hosting a sweepstakes, but want to title it and advertise it as “The Great Giveaway” or something like that, is that legal?

    • Sara Hawkins May 12, 2018 at 12:12 am - Reply

      While the legal words are Sweepstakes (game of chance) and Contest (game of skill), using other words such as giveaway or promotion are permitted. The important part is that the rules provide the detail so anyone can determine if it’s a game of skill, game of chance, a hybrid, a lottery, or gambling.

  287. Trent May 12, 2018 at 9:09 pm - Reply

    If you have an AMOE, but still give someone an entry for every 5$ they spend on the store, what is the technical legal loophole there? And if I have found a website with a contest structure very similar to the one I would like to run, and see that there official rules page is pretty basic, but copyrighted, how much would it typically cost to have my own document drafted? And is it extremely important to have a licensed lawyer/firm referenced or can I just technically draft one myself? Sorry for all the questions, but thank you for the article!

    • Sara Hawkins May 24, 2018 at 10:27 am - Reply

      Having an AMOE is not a legal loophole, it is the law. Sweepstakes laws state that there must be a way to enter that doesn’t require purchase or conferring consideration to the sponsor, administrator, or designated third party. A yogurt or soda company can put entry codes under the cap and require that you buy those products to look under the cap so long as there is a way to enter the sweepstakes without having to buy the yogurt or soda. This is why having official rules that are customized to the promotion are very important.

      I would never suggest taking a legal document off the internet if you don’t know what it says or what the potential ramifications of using it would be. Having had my agreements taken since I put my first one online in 1995, it’s quite annoying. As for cost, I don’t know what others charge.

      As with all legal documents, it’s possible to draft them yourself but there are associated risks. I realize my answer may be vague, but I really can’t tell you that you are legally obligated to use an attorney. As with crafting a will, some people use an attorney and some don’t.

  288. Biz Tips: How to Generate More Leads on YouTube | BizAtomic May 17, 2018 at 8:07 pm - Reply

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  291. Rudy June 16, 2018 at 2:02 pm - Reply

    I run a blog where I ask for donations help with the operational costs of the site. To show my appreciation, can I run a giveaway exclusive to members who donate to help with operational costs?

    • sara August 12, 2018 at 1:34 pm - Reply

      All sweepstakes in the US must have a method of entry that does not require purchase, donation, or the conferring of consideration to the sponsor, administrator, or associated/designated third party. This is commonly referred to as the “free” or “no purchase necessary” means of entry.

  292. Gabrielle Brown June 20, 2018 at 2:04 pm - Reply

    What is something is a Contest, in which the person has to provide a correct answer, but multiple people provide the right answer. Thus random selection from those people is used to find the winner. Does that then turn it into a Sweepstake?

    • sara August 12, 2018 at 2:27 pm - Reply

      In most states, if there is any element of random selection in determining the winners then a Contest can become a Sweepstakes and would have to have then met all the criteria to comply with sweepstakes laws.

  293. Sundra Taylor October 21, 2018 at 11:06 am - Reply

    This is great information and comment reading. I was planning on running a simple giveaway to help grow my list, but now I am not so sure. It seems that there is too much involved legally to comply with all states. I was going to use a WordPress plugin to set the giveaway/sweepstakes up and let the plugin randomly choose a winner for a customized business logo. After reading, it would be a sweepstakes and not a giveaway.

    Do you think this would still be acceptable?

    It’s amazing how long you have been commenting on this. It is definitely a topic that is still questionable.
    Thank you!

    • sara November 14, 2018 at 9:13 am - Reply

      It’s unlikely that a WordPress plug-in will provide all the legal protections or necessary disclosures. Running a contest or sweepstakes, like many other aspects of running a business, come with legal requirements. It’s up to the business owner to ensure that, like other laws that apply to their business, they are complying or knowingly taking the risk of non-compliance. It’s like driving and not following the posted speed limit or not following all hiring laws, there are risk associated with non-compliance.

  294. XpertShout November 9, 2018 at 7:18 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the information, very clear and simple. I will try to use it.

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