Wiley Rein

Offering bonus entries for a contest could send a radio station into muddy legal waters. Popular takes on giving listeners an extra chance to win include asking for entrants to share the contest on social media, sign-up for its email club or perhaps, watch a video. Less popular, but still used by some, is to offer listeners another contest entry by donating to a charity.

Before tacking this onto any upcoming station contest, broadcast media law firm Wiley Rein offers advice on how to keep your contesting legal. On the firm’s website, Kathryne Dickerson explains the definition of a private lottery, which includes three elements: prize, chance and consideration. The “consideration” is the item usually removed by savvy promotion directors when a client or green AE presents an idea that may cross the line. If the consideration is removed, a private lottery becomes a legal contest. Easy enough.

But in an effort to build email and social databases, sometimes the rules are not as clear. “The problem with bonus entries, frequently enough, is that consideration—attached to a better chance to win—tends to creep back in,” Dickerson writes in the blog post.

In regards to seeking charitable donations for additional entries to a contest, Dickerson writes, “Now you’re giving folks who pay to enter (or, more precisely, who pay for additional entries) a better chance to win than folks who don’t take advantage of the bonus entry option.” Even with the money going to charity, Dickerson says, “It’s risky, and the answer may vary based on state law. The better option is to limit bonus entries to activities not involving an element of consideration.”

Dickerson suggests keeping legal counsel in the loop during the planning stages of contests that may fall into the gray area. She stresses, “When it comes to contest compliance, don’t take extra chances.”