Clock icon 17 min read Calendar icon Jun 20, 2023

Sweepstakes Laws: Build a Strong Legal Foundation for Successful Sweepstakes

Sweepstakes are popular marketing tools to drive engagement with your brand, improve brand recognition, and generate excitement about your company’s products or services. In fact, 55 million Americans participate in these sorts of contests every year, providing your brand with a great opportunity to boost engagement.

However, running successful sweepstakes requires more than just creatives and giveaways. It demands a strong foundation of legal and compliance measures that govern such promotions.

If you want to run sweepstakes, you should always double-check every element of the promotion with your lawyer(s) before releasing the contest publicly, work with experienced sweepstakes vendors and ensure they comply with all local, state, and federal sweepstakes rules and laws. And be sure to work with a sweepstakes agency that has the right experience.

We have closely examined the most important sweepstakes laws and regulations:

From eligibility requirements and price restrictions to disclosure obligations, we got all covered for you. Let’s get started with understanding sweepstakes first and then discuss the specific laws, regulations, and compliances.

What are Sweepstakes?

Sweepstakes are promotional events or campaigns where winners are drawn randomly from among the valid participants. The prizes can range from cash and vacations to products, gift cards, or exclusive experiences.

It involves various forms of entry, such as filling out a form, submitting an email, sharing content on social platforms, visiting a website, or watching a video. Generally, there is no purchase necessary to enter the sweepstakes. If it's not clear, see real sweepstakes examples here.

Sweeps laws and requirements

How to Navigate Sweepstakes Laws and Compliance?

It might seem like a complex process, but with careful planning and attention to the required details, you can ensure that your sweepstakes marketing campaigns meet the necessary regulations. Use this checklist to avoid missing anything before releasing your sweepstakes to the public.

Familiarize yourself with applicable sweepstakes laws:  Understand the sweepstakes laws and regulations for your specific jurisdiction. Remember, the law varies from state to state and we will discuss it later in the article.

Privacy Policy:  Make sure to provide a link to your privacy policy, including how you will collect and use their personal information. Ensure to provide complete information to the participants about the key details of your sweepstakes.

Sweepstakes bonding and regulation: Some jurisdictions may require registering your sweepstakes with a specific government agency or disclosing certain details to the authorities. For example, New York and Florida need registration and sweepstakes bonding requirements for prizes exceeding $5,000. Similarly, every state has different laws, so make sure your sweepstakes fall under their registration requirements.

Eligibility Requirements:  While your policy section would already have eligibility criteria, make sure to clearly communicate factors such as age, residency, and other exclusions in your rules.

Prize Considerations: Be aware of any tax implications for the winners and consider consulting legal or financial experts to navigate these complexities. For example, if your sweepstakes offer a trip as a prize, make sure to verify and collect all required documents as needed.

Create Full & abbreviation rules: Create rules that outline all the necessary details of your sweepstakes, including entry methods, entry deadlines, eligibility criteria, prize descriptions, and any other restrictions. For example, if sweepstakes are communicated using telemarketing calls, they must comply with TSR. While if the sweepstakes are communicated through telemarketing calls and text, they must comply with the requirements of TCPA.

Terms and Conditions: T&Cs are vital components of your sweepstakes campaigns as they outline rules, regulations, and conditions for participants. It includes dispute resolutions, privacy, and data protection, winner selection & process of contacts, social network disclaimers, sponsors, and other considerations.

Winner Selection and Distribution: Provide a detailed description of the prizes offered in the sweepstakes, including their approximate retail values. Explain how winners will be selected through a random drawing, judging panel, or other methods.

Work with legal professionals: If you have concerns about understanding or complying with sweepstakes laws, consult with legal professionals.

 

If these things are driving your brand away from holding a sweepstakes  promotion, consider Snipp’s comprehensive sweepstakes management platform to  help you handle all of these moving parts.

 

Let’s talk about some important laws and regulations to consider.

Sweepstakes Laws and Requirements

1. Alternate Means of Entry (AMOE)

Alternate Means of Entry, or AMOE, allows your customers to participate in sweepstakes if it involves a kind of monetary benefit for the company, like a purchase or donation. The most common alternate entry methods include online entry forms, entry by mail, telephone entry, entry through social platforms, In-person entry at the store, and text message entry.

The alternate means of entry should be readily available, free of charge, and not impose any significant burdens on participants compared to those who choose to purchase. Sweepstakes organizers must ensure that the AMOE is fair and does not disadvantage participants who opt for the free method of entry.

2. No Purchase Necessary Laws (NPN)

When running sweepstakes, you must know “No Purchase Necessary Laws.” The law in some states says that if you are running sweepstakes, you cannot ask participants to make a purchase or provide them with other considerations like increasing the chance of winning by making a purchase.

3. Federal Sweepstakes Laws

Your sweepstakes should comply with Federal Trade Commission’s general advertising guidelines. There is no single federal law that exclusively governs the sweepstakes. However, several agencies, including the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the United State Postal Services (USPS), and the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), apply rules and regulations.

Here are some key federal laws to consider:

  • FTC Act: The FTC prohibits deceptive and unfair trade practices; it requires certain information, rules, and transparency in the prizes. It should include basic information about the sponsor, promotion duration, winner selection method, types of prizes, eligibility requirements, T&Cs, liability limitations, and privacy policies.
  • Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act (DMPEA): It is applied only to the sweepstakes made available through direct emails, and includes best practices for fair hosting of the sweepstakes.
  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS): It says, that the sponsor or the contest is responsible for issuing IRS 1099-Misc. Income tax form to the winner if the price won value is over $600.
  • CAN-SPAM Rule: The CAN-SPAM Act sets the rule for commercial emails to give recipients the right to stop emailing them. It states to use accurate subject lines, make clear messages, and include an opt-out mechanism.
  • California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA): The act states that California residents have certain rights and control over their personal information. If you collect information on California residents through YouTube sweepstakes, regardless of your business location, in that case, you need to provide notice about data collection, honor rights to access and delete data and implement security measures to protect personal information.
  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): While GDPR is not a law in the United States, there are different privacy laws regulated at federal and state levels. It is necessary to disclose how participants' data will be used and protected.

4. US State Sweepstakes Laws

Some states have additional laws or requirements that you need to comply with. In addition to federal laws, you’ll want to check into the various sweepstakes laws by different states to ensure you don’t end up with strict penalties.

Here are some State Laws:

  • New York: The sweepstakes with prices over $5,000 must be registered and bonded 30 days prior to the sweepstakes opening dates. The list of winners must be provided to anyone who requests it.
  • Ohio: Sweepstakes must not force participants to visit a store unless a participant has already visited the store to make a purchase or attended a sales presentation.
  • Florida: If the total price is over $5,000, it must be registered and bonded 7 days before the sweepstakes begin. You also need to file the winner list with the state and provide a list to anyone who requests it.
  • Maine: Sweepstakes may not collect health-related or personal information from participants under the age of 18 without first obtaining verifiable consent from legal guardians or parents.
  • North Dakota: No skill-based sweepstakes may require a purchase or other forms of consideration.
  • Rhode Island: The prize pooled valued above $500 must be registered with the state if there is a retail store in the state. Bonding is not required.
  • Tennessee: You cannot release the personal information of the winner in public in perpetuity.
  • Texas: If you are organizing sweepstakes in Texas and the prize is valued at more than $50,000, you cannot automatically enter customers into sweepstakes every time they make a purchase.

The remaining states and above mentioned states follow the general promotion law across the US.

5. Registration and Bonding of sweepstakes


Registration and bonding are two important requirements for running sweepstakes, although they may not be required in all jurisdictions. The specific requirements for registration and bonding can vary from state to state within the United States. Here's a general overview:

Registration of Sweepstakes:

Sweepstakes registration refers to the process of providing certain information to the appropriate authorities in order to legally conduct sweepstakes. Some states require sweepstakes operators to register their promotion with state agencies or disclose specific details about the promotion, such as the start and end dates, prize descriptions, and eligibility requirements. The purpose of registration is to ensure compliance with state regulations and provide transparency to participants.

Bonding for Sweepstakes:

Sweepstakes bonding involves obtaining a surety bond to financially guarantee the fulfillment of the prizes offered in the sweepstakes. This requirement is primarily aimed at protecting participants by providing a recourse if the operator fails to award the promised prizes. The bond amount is typically based on the total value of the prizes or a predetermined amount set by the governing authority.

It's important to note that not all states require registration or bonding for sweepstakes. Requirements can vary, and some states may have specific thresholds that trigger the need for registration or bonding, such as a certain prize value or the number of participants. 

Additionally, some states may have alternative requirements or exemptions for certain types of sweepstakes, such as those run by nonprofit organizations or small businesses.

To determine the specific registration and bonding requirements for sweepstakes, it's essential to consult the laws and regulations of the individual states where the sweepstakes will be conducted. The regulatory agencies responsible for overseeing sweepstakes promotions can provide guidance and information on the specific requirements in each jurisdiction.

Which states require registration and bonding of sweepstakes?

The requirements for registration and bonding of sweepstakes can vary from state to state. While we can provide a general overview, it's important to consult the specific laws and regulations of each state to determine the requirements for a given sweepstakes. Here are some examples of states that commonly require registration or bonding (this does not represent legal advice and please consult your lawyer before running sweepstakes):

  • New York: Sweepstakes with a prize value exceeding $5,000 must be registered and bonded with the New York Secretary of State's office.
  • Florida: Florida requires registration and bonding for sweepstakes with prizes valued over $5,000.
  • Rhode Island: Sweepstakes with a prize value exceeding $500 must be registered with the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation. A bond or an alternative form of security may be required.
These are just a few examples, and there may be additional states with registration and bonding requirements. It's crucial to research and consult the specific laws and regulations of each state where you plan to run a sweepstakes to ensure compliance with their requirements. Additionally, regulations and requirements can change over time, so it's important to stay updated with the latest information from the relevant regulatory agencies.

In Conclusion

Familiarizing with the relevant sweepstakes management laws and regulations across different states is important. Complying with the laws can prevent penalties and minimize legal risks. By ensuring transparency, providing clear terms and conditions, and avoiding deceptive practices that can minimize legal risks.

Contact us today to learn more about how our turnkey, industry-agnostic sweepstakes platform can help you create compelling sweepstake campaigns to acquire and engage your customers.