Giveaways are incredibly popular on blogs; in fact in honor of my first blogiversary I hosted a giveaway. But many of the blog giveaways that I see are actually illegal lotteries, which is territory none of us want to fall into.
Lots of G-men have their hands in the giveaway pot, because lottery law involves pretty much every state and many federal agencies. And that’s a whole lot of guys in trench coats potentially knocking on your door.
What is a lottery?
When three things come together we have a lottery:
- winner selected by chance
- some form of payment is required to enter
In the United States, few lotteries are legal. Legal lotteries are generally limited to those that are state-sponsored or that occur within a casino. Because of that as bloggers we need to host sweepstakes or contests so that we stay on the right side of the law.
How do we avoid an illegal lottery?
To avoid an illegal lottery, we have to make sure those three things don’t come together. And how we do that is eliminating one of them. Under the law, these are called sweepstakes and contests.
- sweepstakes: prize + random winner + no payment
- contests: prize + payment + not a random winner
Where I see most bloggers getting in trouble is they require “payment” to enter their random giveaway. However, the law doesn’t define payment as only an exchange of cash. It also includes:
Purchase. You can’t require a purchase for entry into your sweepstakes.
Time investment. You can’t require a significant investment of time for entry into your sweepstakes. Some common examples of this are:
- creating a Pinterest board
- going to the sponsor’s website and finding your favorite product and reporting back to you on your website
- filling out a several question survey
Providing something of marketable value. You can’t require entrants to turn over something of marketable value to enter your sweepstakes. Some common examples of this are:
- signing up for your and/or your sponsor’s email list
- following you and/or your sponsor on social media
Where I see most bloggers getting in trouble is they require “payment” to enter their random giveaway.
So the first step to deciding what kind of giveaway you are going to have is to determine the goals of your giveaway. Because if the goals for your blog giveaway require “payment”, then you need to remove the chance piece. And when you remove that piece you are creating a contest and need to select your winners based on specific criteria.
When you host a contest, winners should be selected based on skill. For example, winners could be chosen based on creativity and originality of their entries.
(That is unless you create a method of entry that gives them the same chances of winning without paying.)
The first step to deciding what kind of giveaway you are going to have is to determine your goals.Click To Tweet
The first step to deciding what kind of giveaway you are going to have is to determine the goals of your giveaway.
Once you know your intended outcome you’ll use this to put together your giveaway’s Official Rules.
Does thinking about your ultimate outcome help you determine how to structure your next giveaway? Share your thoughts in the comments.