Laws and Rules for Sweepstakes in Florida

First, it helps to understand the difference between a sweepstakes, contest and lottery. In a sweepstakes, winners are chosen randomly from all participants. In a contest, the winners’ entries are usually judged and are based on a skill or criteria. In a lottery, winners are chosen at random, but in order to enter, the participant must pay. A payment is called a consideration. Only states can hold lotteries, so all private lotteries are illegal.

To avoid being classified as an illegal lottery in any state, your promotion can only have 2 of these 3 elements: prize, chance and consideration. Keep in mind, consideration can mean anything of value, including a fee or even a significant effort (i.e., time spent shooting/submitting a photo, etc.)

Here are possible combinations:
  • Prize + consideration + chance = illegal lottery or gambling
  • Prize + consideration = legal contest (in most jurisdictions)
  • Prize + chance = legal sweepstakes

All sweepstakes in the United States must meet the following regulations:
  1. No purchase necessary. You can enter the sweepstakes without buying a product or service.
  2. Winners are required to pay taxes on prizes they win.

Sweepstakes are regulated nationally and by state by the following organizations:
  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
  • Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
  • United States Postal Service (USPS)
  • United States Department of Justice (DOJ)

State Specific Sweepstakes & Contest Laws

Besides federal considerations, every state has its own specifics laws regarding sweepstakes and contests.

Florida (FL)

Awarding a prize valued at more than $5,000? The state of Florida will expect you to bond and register your sweepstakes 7 days before it begins. After the sweeps ends, you’ll need to provide the names and addresses of all winners. If the prize includes travel, you must also register as a “Seller of Travel.”

Contests: are allowed as long as the sponsor awards the prize based on skill and not chance. The sponsors may charge a consideration (payment to participate) but the prize cannot be composed solely of the participant’s entry fees.

Sweepstakes (or as FL calls them, Game Promotion): are allowed as long as the sponsor awards the prize based on chance. Sweepstakes offered in Florida whose prizes exceed $5,000 in Approximate Retail Value must be bonded and registered with the state.

Florida Registration, Bonding, and Operational Requirements for sweepstakes that exceed $5,000 in Approximate Retail Value of all prizes combined:

  • Registration Requirements: sweepstakes with aggregate prizes valued at more than $5,000 need to register with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
  • Bonding Requirements: Sponsors must establish a trust account or provide a bond equal to the Approximate Retail Value of all prizes combined if the prizes exceed $5,000 or more and notify the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services that a trust or bond has been established.
  • Operational Requirements: Sponsors must publish the Official Rules online. In Florida, Official Rules must be posted in retail stores where the sweepstakes is available and Abbreviated Official Rules must be included in all printed advertisements. Additionally, the sponsor must file a winner's list for all winners that received prizes valued at $25 or more.

Promotional Laws - Florida- Telemarketing

  • When combining a promotion with telemarketing campaigns, if the seller tells a prospective purchaser that he/she is or may be eligible to receive a gift the seller must file with the state an information statement about the promotion.

Promotional Laws - Florida Free Gift Advertising Law

  • Florida prohibits deceptive use of the word “free” and similar words in any advertising. All advertising offering free items must include clear and conspicuous disclosures of all conditions or obligations necessary to receive the free item.

Legal Review Criteria: Dominant Factor Doctrine when assessing whether or not chance determines the outcome of a promotion.

Note: the information above is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Sweepstakes and Contest promotional laws change and the above may not reflect the must current laws.

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