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Jan 2, 2018

Time for a Lottery Test!

   Not for the first time, I sense two illegal lotteries being offered in Alabama under the disguise of a promotion.
      First off: I think Alabama should have a state lottery, but the Alabama constitution prohibits it. And that means all lotteries, not just the banned state lottery, are illegal.
     Does that includes Whole Foods, which is offering gift cards to some people eating or shopping in their stores? And does it include The Mountain Brook Chamber of Commerce, which is promoting area restaurants by offering a "grand prize" worth at least $1,300.  The Chamber's website explains how it works:
  • Grab your friends and enjoy a meal, ice cream cone, coffee, etc. at one of our 49 (and counting!) eateries.
  • be sure to document your experience by posting a picture to #i8mb on Instagram or Facebook.Once you have completed the trail by documenting all 49 restaurants, let the Chamber know by calling them at 205-871-3779 or emailing 
  • As you are dining out Everyone who completes the trail will be entered into a winner's drawing, and in December 2018 one lucky winner will be drawn for the Grand Prize!

     The Whole Foods event in Montgomery offers $50 gift cards each day for a month to random customers who are eating or shopping in the store.

Here's the problem. The test to determine if an event is a lottery (and therefore illegal by Alabama state law) is threefold. It must include:

1--A prize.  ($1,300 in Mountain Brook, $50 a day in Montgomery.)

2--Chance. It must be random and  not determined by skill. There's no skill involved in buying a meal or groceries. You pay 'em and they give you the food.

3---Consideration. There must be a fee of some kind to take part. In Mountain Brook, that means paying for meals at the restaurants. In Montgomery it means "shopping or eating" at the Whole Foods store. 

     In 2013 I raised the same objections to a promotion in Alexander City, Alabama, called "Andy Bucks". It was even more clearly a lottery. It was run by the Chamber as a way of getting people to spend more money in local stores, reported The Andalusia Star-News newspaper:

"When it begins on Sept. 1, shoppers will receive a numbered ticket for every $10 they spend with participants. At the first council meeting of each month a winning number will be drawn. The person holding that ticket will have 30 days to claim $1,000 in “Andy Bucks,” or ten $100 gift certificates redeemable with participating merchants."

Prize? Yep. Chance? Sure. And Consideration?---of course..the $10 you have to pay to take part.

As far as I can tell, the lottery  promotion in Andalusia was not repeated in subsequent years.

I applaud the chambers and the stores mentioned above for promoting their businesses, but lotteries are either legal or illegal...and if Alabama residents have to travel across the state line, then all lotteries should be banned.  

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