Laws regarding "collect and win" games...

So there’s this multi-state, multi-grocery store chain Monopoly contest running. I looked at the rules, and one of them stated that with the largest prizes, there was one set of “rare” stamps to collect in the set, and one “semi-rare.” I assume this means that, to give out three grand prizes, there are three rare stamps in circulation and, say, 30000 semi-rares or whatever, in comparison to, say, 3 million commons.

Now, I understand that companies deliberately “seed” the big winners in certain areas hoping for more business and publicity in those areas. This makes me wonder: is there anything legally stopping the company from deliberately “seeding” the rares and the semi-rares for the grand prize in completely different states, to reduce the chance of someone claiming it to almost zero? After all, nothing is stopping customers from shopping in different states, or collaborating with family members in different states, so it’s still possible to win, and even if distribution were completely random, it would still be vanishingly unlikely to be able to win shopping at just one store to begin with, never mind just one chain. But could they do that on purpose? Are they any under obligation to have a minimum threshold of winning likelihood?

(I do note that this assumes they don’t want to give the big prizes away, and are thus willing to lose out on publicity and generate suspicions like the one above, but I think it’s an okay one to make in this case.)

I don’t know the answer to the legal question, but the way they usually dispel such doubts is by holding a random drawing for the grand prize if no winner claims it.

Good point; I don’t know about this particular case, as I don’t feel like going back into the rules again to find out. But even if so, they’d still have motive to “cheat” — the longer the big prizes go unclaimed, the more motivated shoppers will be.

Note Rule #6:

There will only be a second-chance drawing if NONE of the top six prizes are awarded. So if even one of the top 6 prizes is awarded, there will be no second-chance drawing.

And if there is a second chance drawing, it will be only for a single $500,000 prize. The top 6 prizes combined are worth several million.

The way these contests work, the sponsor (the store) usually does not choose where the winning prize pieces go. They usually employ an independent sweepstakes administrator who randomly distributes the winning pieces.

No, this is a myth.

Back when I used to do investigative consulting work my company had several large clients (including Oscar Mayer, Coca Cola, Pepsico, etc.) that ran contests like this. We were contracted to have agents at the printing facility where the game pieces were printed. Every now and then an agent would introduce an instant winner (that was printed separate and only we had access to) into the printing hopper where the “commons” were being collated.

All of those card board flats were shipped out to the facility where the actual products were packaged (soda, juice boxes, pudding, etc.) and then shipped out all over the country. There was absolutely no way to know where any game piece went whatsoever. And this was exactly how it had to be. We then had to fill out paper work indicating that we placed so many instant wins and so many “connecting pieces” (for multi-piece games) within the commons. That paperwork constituted a legal document as we had to swear to it under penalties of perjury and have it notarized and such.

I sat in meetings with the big wigs of these companies and learned a great deal about those contests. I can tell you that they absolutely did not seed any winners in any area. This would have corrupted the integrity of the contests.

I don’t know about instant win games but I know that winning scratch tickets in at least one state are randomly distributed (and they probably are in all). My former co-worker once worked in an accounting firm that had the contract to audit Connecticut’s lottery. They would randomly select lottery shipments bound to retailers and replace them with other shipments. The auditors would scratch thousands of tickets, and test to make sure that, within a certain level of confidence, the odds of winning were as represented on the ticket and that no lottery retailer was receiving a suspiciously high level of winners. I would imagine that the Monopoly game people could have a similar testing system.

No, they couldn’t keep the prizes. The tickets were all shredded.

Is what the OP said about there being ‘semi-rare’ game pieces true? I always thought that every ‘collect-and-win’ contest was merely an instant win in disguise. IOW only one piece was truly rare, the whole collect-and-win game play was just a marketing strategy to keep people involved and coming back (thinking that they were getting close when it’s actually all or nothing).

I’m not sure - there are definitely, for the larger prizes in this particular promotion, some that are very common and 2 or 3 that are rarer. (For the smaller prizes, there appear to be 3 common and exactly 1 rare piece.)

However, the rules for the contest list the odds, and at the very bottom of the page, it says, “Odds are based on getting the one rare marker,” which implies, well, that there’s 1 rare marker and the others are not significant to the odds.

So it’s a little unclear - like I said, there are definitely some that appear to have multiple “rares” but maybe some of those are just uncommon and if you get the one rare, you’d just go out and acquire the other uncommons - if you know you have the $1,000,000 rare piece, you can spend a lot of money buying groceries until you get the uncommons you need and still come out ahead.

The rules vary from one sweepstakes to another. I’ve seen some that specified if there’s no winner, we won’t give away the prize. Keep in mind, millions of customers simply throw away their tickets without ever checking them. The token everybody is looking for might lie unopened in a landfill somewhere. I imagined somebody grubbing through the trash at McDonalds searching for unopened tokens.

The sponsoring company has invested a lot of money in the glveaway ad project, to get more people to come in and, they hope, buy something. The cost of the prizes, if claimed, is a small portion of what they paid for the campaign.

The law says a sweepstakes must be open to everybody, with no obligation to purchase anything. That’s the only one I know of, except for the laws against fraud, which apply to all of us.

If I understand you correctly then, yes.

For instance, there was a Hi-C drink 6 pack promotion my company worked once in which the prize was an expensive pair of sneakers (tennis shoes, or whatever you call them) valued @ over $300.

The game pieces came in 6 packs of the drink boxes. The card board over-wrap was the piece. When you opened the cardboard over-wrap there was printing inside that was the game piece.

One could win by collecting 3 pieces (the front, middle, and back of a shoe) or by getting an instant win piece.

The front and back part of the shoe were “commons” (everybody got it) and the middle was very rare (inserted randomly as a “winner”) and the instant win pieces were inserted at slightly less intervals as the middles piece of the shoe puzzle.

But there was no way any of the pieces were shipped to any specific market. One of the reasons the client used us was to guarantee that.
BTW, this was actually a pretty good gig. The guys working under me made no less than 25 dollars an hour. They sat in a cushy room with a cot, TV, fridge, etc. and then occasionally came out and stuck some winner sheets in the hopper and then went back into the room. Like me these guys were all off duty cops making a couple of bucks on the side.

Read the footnotes right under the chart at the top of the page:

I hope you’re not Jerome Jacobson.

For some megabuck contests, the company takes out insurance on someone winning the top prize. I.e., they don’t have the megabucks sitting in an account somewhere. If no one wins the top prize, the insurance company has collected a nice fee for no work. If someone wins it, the company is out nothing extra and the insurance company is on the hook for the dough.

Figuring out the odds and what fee should be charged is what the geeks deep in the bowels of insurance companies live for. (When I was an undergrad, this was the practically the only jobs available for my fellow students with Math degrees.)

In cases like this, there is no money to distribute among near winners.