EXCLUSIVE: Florida’s top sweepstakes regulator discusses recent changes to Florida’s game promotion statute

by Thompson Coburn LLP

Effective April 10, 2013, the state of Florida made changes to its Game Promotion Statute. The changes were made partly in response to the state’s recent ban of so-called Internet sweepstakes cafes.

The changes in the law won’t drastically alter how many businesses conduct promotions in the state of Florida, but they do result in dramatic changes for nonprofits and charitable organizations, which, as of April 10, 2013, are now prohibited from operating game promotions.

To find out more about the changes, I reached out to Liz Compton, the chief of the Bureau of Compliance at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Liz talked with us last year for a series of posts about sweepstakes in Florida. This week, she helpfully offered some clarification on the law change.

Dale Joerling: A recent Florida Industry eAlert issued by the Florida Division of Consumer Services states that for-profit entities may conduct game promotions on a “limited and occasional basis.” Does that mean that for-profit operations will be limited in terms of the number, duration, or frequency of these promotions? How so?

Liz Compton:  At this time, the department has no plans to promulgate rules limiting the number, duration or frequency of game promotions of for-profit entities that offer sweepstakes in connection with and incidental to the bona fide sales of consumer products or services.    

Dale Joerling: Does the amended Section 849.094 Florida Statutes prohibit non-profit and charitable organizations from operating a game promotion?  If so, does that include nationally advertised game promotions?

Liz Compton: Yes, the amendments to the statute prohibit a non-profit or charitable organization from operating a game promotion. This includes nationally advertised game promotions. Only for-profit entities may operate game promotions in Florida.

Dale Joerling: Can non-profit and charitable organizations conduct raffles for prizes under Section 849.0935 Florida Statute if they eliminate the element of money consideration but still allow for voluntary donations and contributions?

Liz Compton: The department has no regulatory authority over raffles conducted under Section 849.0935 so we aren’t able to offer an opinion on this.

Dale Joerling: When do these changes go into effect?

Liz Compton: The changes were effective as of April 10, 2013.

Dale Joerling: Will the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services provide additional rules or guidance regarding the changes to Section 849 Florida Statutes?

Liz Compton: At this time, the department is reviewing the changes to determine whether additional rules are necessary. Information regarding the changes is available on our website at www.800helpfla.com or by calling 800-HELP-FLA (435-7352).

Dale Joerling: What are the most frequent questions you’ve received since announcing these changes in the law?

Liz Compton: Most questions relate to the ability of a charity or non-profit to run a game promotion.  As mentioned above, the amendments to the statute only allow for-profit entities to run a game promotion.

Dale Joerling: Is there anything else marketers or other companies should know about these changes?

Liz Compton: It is important for entities that file game promotions to note that filing with the department does not authorize and will not be considered a defense to a charge of possession of a slot machine or device or any other devices or a violation of any other law.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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