The ABC’s of sweepstakes
By: Natisha Nel
Many websites on the internet offer huge winnings through sweepstakes, contests, instant games and lotto’s. That is why it is easy to confuse them and use these terms interchangeably. But sweepstakes are not the same as contests. The difference is quite simple.
Contests require an element of skill. You deliver the goods, be it a poem, an essay or a recipe and you win if you are good enough. Of course, the product you deliver is generally used by the promoter; failing which there may be an entry fee for participation.
Sweepstakes on the other hand give away prizes purely on chance. They are winnings of luck; no element of skill comes in. A random winner is picked from the entries and offered anything from a TV set to a chance to tour a favored holiday destination or huge cash payments. Prizes depend on the promoter and the item they are promoting and may vary from basic items like t-shirts or perfumes to cars, houses, travel deals and enormous cash rewards.
In the United States, sweepstakes are legal while lotteries are not. Three common elements define both sweepstakes and lotteries. They are:
To avoid becoming an illegal lottery, a sweepstake must ensure that it does not have all the three elements. It can have any two, but not all of them. Obviously, the first two elements cannot be avoided so the third one is left out. That is why legitimate sweepstakes NEVER ask for an entry fee or compensation. In short, free sweepstakes are legit, paid ones are fraudulent! Sweepstakes cannot even demand a portion of your winnings.
So, what are some of the things you need to look out for while entering sweepstakes? First, check out if the sweepstake applies to your location. Some locations like Quebec, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island and Florida are considered void locations, meaning if you belong to this locality, you cannot enter.
Secondly, find if your age fits the criteria of the particular sweepstake. Most sweepstakes are open to the over 18 and over 21 categories. However, some promoters allow children over the age of 13 to participate under adult supervision.
Lastly, see if there is any limit on the number of entries you can send in. For example, some promotions are single-entry contests; others allow you to enter once daily. Many allow unlimited entries. Frequency depends entirely on the sponsor. You can ascertain it by going through the “Rules” section.
Remember, before you enter any contest, it is important to check out the guidelines governing it. Why? It would be a pain to fill out all the information and then discover at the bottom of the page (or when you hit the submit button) that you are not eligible for whatever reason, isn’t it?