Sweepstakes are a popular way to conduct marketing and promotional campaigns, but it is easy to accidentally run afoul of state or federal laws governing these activities. This article provides a brief outline of Missouri sweepstakes law.
First, it is important to understand how a sweepstakes, a contest, and a lottery differ from each other, as these terms are often used interchangeably.
- In sweepstakes, a winner is drawn at random from all those who entered the promotion, and no purchase is necessary to participate.
- In a contest, the winner is selected by judges and based on skill or defined criteria (e.g., a strongman contest).
- In a lottery, a winner is chosen at random, but the entrant must pay to participate (e.g., Powerball or MegaMillions).
Second, a simple formula will usually tell if you are conducting a legal sweepstakes, a contest, an illegal lottery, or illegal gambling.
- If you have a prize and “consideration” (money or some other form of payment) and the winner is selected at random, you have either an illegal lottery or illegal gambling.
- If you have a prize and “consideration” and the winner is selected based on skill or other defined criteria, you have a legal contest in Missouri and most jurisdictions.
- Only if you have a prize, no other consideration, and the winner is chosen at random do you have legal sweepstakes in Missouri and most jurisdictions.
It is important to be mindful of these general parameters in developing your sweepstakes.
Third, even after properly configuring your sweepstakes, it is critically important to develop the program rules to avoid being vague or suffering other pitfalls stemming from incomplete rules (e.g., limitations on liability, insufficiently defining eligible entrants, not describing what happens if there is no eligible winner selected).
In conclusion, a sweepstakes is a great way to conduct a marketing or promotional campaign. It must, however, be conducted in a compliant and fully developed manner to avoid being determined an illegal lottery and to prevent further problems with how the sweepstakes is run.
Contact Paule, Camazine, and Blumenthal, P.C., attorney Benjamin Yousef if you are looking for help in setting up sweepstakes for your organization.