If you enter sweepstakes for Canadians, you'll find a strange math equation on the entry form. Or, as in the case of the Bizrate Cash Sweepstakes, you'll see a line in the rules that says something like: "If a Canadian resident wins a prize, that person must also answer correctly within a 5 minute time period a mathematical skill-testing question without the benefit of any... calculating devices before the prize will be awarded." Why do Canadian contests require skill testing questions to enter? Are sweepstakes discriminating against Canadians?
Skill Testing Questions Aren't Discrimination - They're a Result of Canadian Sweepstake LawMany people wonder if the skill testing questions are thought up by the sponsors to prevent Canadians from winning as often. However, Canadian sweepstakes don't have skill testing questions because the sponsors want to discriminate against Canadians, but because they are required by Canadian sweepstakes law.
In the Introduction to Contests and Sweepstakes, I wrote about how lotteries have three major components: the prizes have value, the sponsor benefits from the sweepstakes financially, and the winner is chosen at random. In order to avoid being an illegal private lottery, at least one of the three components must be removed.
In the United States, the sponsor usually removes the financial benefit component to avoid being classified as an illegal lottery. That is why most sweepstakes include statements in their rules that confirms that the entrant does not have to pay to enter, and that a purchase will not change the chances of winning.
Canadians Use a Different Method to Avoid Illegal Lotteries
Canadian sweepstakes law, unlike American law, requires that the third component, "winners are chosen by luck," is removed. Sponsors cannot use pure luck to determine who wins a sweepstake. There must be at least some element of skill involved.
In order remove the element of pure chance, sponsors narrow the field of potential winners by requiring a skill testing question to enter their contests. Every entrant does not have the same chance to win; only those who at least pass the skill testing question are eligible to win prizes. Of course, this is only a technicality. Most people can pass the skill testing questions without difficulty, although sponsors are required to make the test somewhat challenging.
What Constitutes a Skill-Testing Question?The courts have agreed that a four-part mathematical test such as "155 plus 33 divided by 2 minus 12" is enough to qualify as a skill-testing question.
An easy math testing question is the minimum required to hold a legal Canadian contest or sweepstakes. Some Canadian sweepstakes go a step farther and ask a trivia question or something a bit more difficult. Others are true contests, where the entrants are judged based on their skills.