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Do not gamble your liberty with Florida’s gaming laws

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In Florida, gambling is a second-degree felony. § 849.08, Fla. Stat. Florida law also prohibits lotteries other than those operated by the state. § 849.09, Fla. Stat. Yet another statute, section 849.14 makes it unlawful to stake, bet, or wager money or other thing of value on the result of any trial or contest. So in operating marketing promotions, it is important to understand what separates a legal game or sweepstakes from a violation of Florida’s gambling laws.

Generally, speaking, gambling or a lottery has the following three elements: prize, chance, and consideration (the payment of money or something else of value). Eliminate at least one of the three to ensure your game or contest is not an illegal lottery. For example, a golf tournament may charge an entry fee and award a prize to the winner because the skill of the contestant predominates over the element of chance. On the other hand, a sweepstakes drawing involves the element of chance, not skill. Therefore, in order to award a prize in a sweepstakes “contest,” organizers must not charge a fee or anything else of value as a condition of entry.  Gifts with purchase do not constitute gambling because although recipients must make a purchase to receive the “prize,” there is no chance involved—every purchaser receives one.

The Attorney General has opined that a contest (such as a bowling or fishing tournament) does not become illegal gambling by the mere fact that contestants are required to pay a fee to enter. However, if the entrance fees collectively constitute the prize to be won, then Florida’s law against wagering is implicated. A competition will also become a wager if the one offering the prize is permitted to compete to win it.

Many promotion organizers and non-profit entities unwittingly violate Florida’s gambling laws by not understanding these concepts. In addition to the aforementioned statutes prohibiting illegal gambling, Florida has detailed statutory requirements governing game promotions in connection with the sale of consumer products or services and with raffles or drawings conducted by charitable or nonprofit organizations. See §§ 849.094, 849.0935, Fla. Stat. Violations of these statutes carry their own civil penalties and may also be actionable under Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.

Our lawyers are experienced in promotion marketing law, including Florida’s game-of-chance requirements. Allow us to assist you in structuring your sweepstakes, contest, or drawing  to avoid having your best marketing ideas turn into an embarrassing legal problem.

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