Q: Are there any legal issues with running an online trivia game as a fundraiser?
I am an employee of a tax-exempt Catholic Parish in Wisconsin. I am considering doing a series of trivia nights through an online platform during COVID-19. These would be to raise money for the youth group, the mission club, etc. There would be an entry fee paid by credit card or debit card online, possibly 5 or 10 dollars per person. Each player would log in to a video call showing the host, and answer the trivia with a smart phone or mobile device. Are there any legal considerations of giving out cash prizes or amazon gift certificate codes to the winners? Is there a possibility of a trivia game being considered a game of chance? The prizes would be set before the event, and would not change based on how many play. Also, there would be no chance involved, as everyone will have the same amount of time to answer fact based questions. Since this is online, there is a possibility of friends or relatives playing from outside of Wisconsin. Thanks!
There is more to it than this, but generally, there are specific state and federal rules against hosting a lottery (i.e. a game of chance). If you're hosting a game of "chance" (as opposed to one of skill) there must be a "No purchase necessary to Play" option for EVERYONE eligible to play.
Note also that the free option must have an equal opportunity as any paying entrant. In other words, if everyone receives one free ticket, then that free ticket must have the same odds of winning as any paid ticket. Without a free option to play, you are holding an illegal lottery.
If you'd like to discuss this further, feel free to email me at Jason@altviewlawgroup.com
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