Sweepstakes FAQ

Our frequently asked questions regarding sweepstakes information.

I have seen organizations or websites advertise a “sweepstakes” as a type of legal raffle in Washington, but cannot find any information to support this claim? Are “sweepstakes” as used by these websites legal in Washington?

“Sweepstakes” as it is being used by numerous businesses, are a type of gambling activity being marketed by several third party businesses online as a legal alternative to the raffles that are authorized under Washington’s Gambling Act. “Sweepstakes” combine elements of two legal gambling activities, to create a third type of contest that is not authorized in Washington. No type of gambling activity is legal unless it is explicitly authorized by law.

Are “sweepstakes” legal in WA?

No. There are two types of authorized activities involving individually numbered tickets being drawn for the chance to win a prize: raffles and promotional contests of chance. Both types of games are subject to their own separate rules.

A raffle is a game that authorizes bona fide charitable or nonprofit organizations to sell tickets at a set rate for a participant to be eligible to win a prize. The organization running the raffle may not give away free tickets.

A promotional contest of chance is a game that authorizes for-profit businesses to issue free tickets to a participant for them to be eligible to win a prize. As a promotional contest of chance may only be used to promote the business, the business may not charge any consideration for its tickets.

A “sweepstakes”, as advertised, combines elements of both of these types of contests. Unless a gambling activity is in compliance with the specific rules required of it, it is not legal in Washington.

I have seen the term sweepstakes used in Washington law. How is the term sweepstakes correctly used in Washington?

The term sweepstakes in Washington refers to two separate and specific gambling activities: golfing sweepstakes and bowling sweepstakes. A golfing sweepstakes allows members of a golfing event’s sponsoring organization and their bona fide guests to bet on certain outcomes of the event.

A bowling sweepstakes allows bowlers to purchase tickets from a bowling establishment to enter a drawing. If a participant’s ticket is drawn, that individual has an opportunity to bowl a strike in order to win a predetermined monetary prize.

As “sweepstakes” as it is being used by certain businesses, does not meet the criteria for either of these legal activities. No Washington law or rule uses “sweepstakes” to reference a raffle or promotional contest of chance, as this type of activity is not authorized.

Can my organization hold a sweepstakes raffle online?

No. Selling and/or purchasing raffle tickets online requires the transmission of gambling information over the internet, which is prohibited in Washington. For other information regarding online gambling, see the Gambling Commission’s FAQ on online gambling.

Can I participate in an out-of-state sweepstakes raffle?

Possibly. You will want to check with the website or organization to ensure that their sweepstakes raffle complies with Washington State law and laws where the organization/business conducting the sweepstakes is located. If lawful, you may purchase tickets and/or participate in sweepstakes raffles that are held out-of-state. If you have any questions or concerns about out-of-state sweepstakes raffles, contact the regulatory agency within the jurisdiction (state) where the sweepstakes raffle drawing will take place.