How to Run Legal Giveaways, Contests & Sweepstakes

Find out everything you need to know about contest and sweepstakes laws, rules and regulations in the U.S. and how you can run your own legally compliant giveaway.

When you run any sort of giveaway or prize promotion such as a contest or sweepstakes it's important to ensure that you're complying with all relevant laws, rules and regulations.

To help you start putting together your campaign we're going to take you through all the U.S.' legal requirements and laws that you need to be aware of to run your own legal and regulation compliant giveaway.

The two types of prize promotions that businesses can typically run in the U.S. are sweepstakes and contests.

The key difference between these types of promotion is that sweepstakes are luck-based promotions where winners are chosen at random, while contests are skill-based promotions where winners are chosen on merit.

Whichever type of promotion you decide to run it's important that you use the appropriate terminology in your promotional material or your terms and conditions.

The most important laws that you need to be weary of when you run a sweepstakes or contest are No Purchase Necessary Laws.

No Purchase Necessary laws essentially outline that for-profit businesses cannot ask for a purchase or any other form of consideration as an entry for a prize promotion if winners are selected at random.

This means that if you're running a sweepstakes where winners are drawn at random you are prohibited from requiring entrants to make a purchase.

However, if you're running a contest where entries are skill-based and winners are chosen based on the merit of their entry you are free to ask for purchases and other forms of consideration. This opens the door to run contests which task users with submitting photos or videos of your product in action or write up testimonials about their experience with your product.

However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. Colorado, Maryland, Nebraska, North Dakota and Vermont all prohibit purchase requirements both in sweepstakes and contests where winners are chosen on merit.

Find All The Contest & Sweepstakes Laws In Your State

Take a look at our state by state look at U.S. giveaway laws and find all the laws and regulations that apply to you.

Alternate Method of Entry, Alternate Means of Entry, or just AMOE, is an entirely free way to enter a promotion that sweepstakes are legally required to provide if the primary means of entry involves making a purchase or providing other forms of consideration.

Common AMOEs include:

  • Online entry forms.
  • Email, mail, text or phone entry.
  • Entering via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other social platforms.
  • Sharing the giveaway on Twitter or other social media platforms.
  • In person entry at stores or events.

You're legally required to disclose all AMOE in the rules of your sweepstakes, and users who enter with your AMOE must have the same odds of winning as all other entrants.

If you want to avoid the hassle of setting up and administering AMOEs your best course is to simply avoid entries with require purchases and instead focus on other valuable actions such as website visits, social media follows and interactions, social sharing and more.

If you use Gleam Competitions, we make this easy for you by automatically implementing free entry alternatives for your paid actions, plus we only show it to entrants who reside in countries where these laws apply.

In order to keep your sweepstakes or contests completely regulation compliant there are a few other things you should make sure you're always doing:

  • Announce the opening and closing dates for submitting entries.
  • Disclose when and how winners will be selected. If you're running a skill-based contest this includes disclosing selection criteria and who the judge panel will be.
  • Announce when prizes will be awarded.
  • Contact all winning entrants. If a winning entrant fails to respond to you within a disclosed period of time you can disqualify them from your promotion and redraw/reselect a winner.
  • If a supplier fails to provide you with a prize you will still be legally obligated to provide a prize for your promotion.
  • Any member of the public can request for a list of the winners.

If you're running a contest or sweepstakes on a social media platform it's important to ensure that you're complying with the platforms promotion guidelines and rules.

You can check them out here:

If you're ready to run your own sweepstakes or contest then you should take a look at Gleam's Competitions app. It allows you to easily create and administer your own powerful sweepstakes or contest that will drive the actions that matter most to you.

  Learn More   Use This Template

Plus, Gleam makes it incredibly easy to create campaigns, collect entries, and draw and contact winners.

Run Powerful Promotions With Gleam

Take a look at Gleam's Competitions app and see how you can use it to perfectly execute your next sweepstakes or contest.


Ahron Burstin

Ahron is a Growth Marketer at Gleam. Shoot him a Tweet if you got something out of this post ☺