Canada: What You Need To Know About Canadian Sweepstakes And Contest Regulations

Last Updated: July 3 2013
Article by Jennifer McKenzie and Tamarah Luk

Clients occasionally ask me to create official rules for a sweepstakes or contest that will be conducted in the U.S. and Canada, or in Canada alone. That's when I contact counsel in Canada who I know have up-to-date experience with Canadian sweepstakes and contest laws. One such firm is  Bereskin & Parr LLP in Toronto, where  Jennifer McKenzie is the head of the firm's Regulatory, Advertising and Marketing practice group. Earlier this month, I asked Jennifer if she would write a guest post that describes some of the differences between U.S. and Canadian sweepstakes regulations, with the caveat that we cannot provide legal advice to our readers.

Here is the article that Jennifer and her colleague  Tamarah Luk put together. It is a very useful description of the top five things that U.S. companies should know about Canadian regulations pertaining to these types of promotions. (One of the first differences: Canadians refer to sweepstakes as "contests of chance.")

Top 5 Things To Know Before Running a Contest in Canada

Promotional contests are a great way to attract consumers' attention to your brand and your products. For U.S. marketers and companies, allowing Canadian residents to participate in promotional contests is a savvy way to increase their brand's exposure. However, despite our countries' many commonalities, Canadian contest law has unique differences to U.S. contest law.

Canadian contests must comply with provisions of the Criminal CodeCompetition Act, and, if Québec residents may enter, Quebec's Act Respecting Lotteries, Publicity Contests and Amusement Machines. Also, if sponsors are using personal information collected during the contest for any secondary purpose, then the contest must also comply with Canada's federal privacy law called the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. Here are the top five things to keep in mind when planning to run a contest in Canada. Depending on the mechanics of your contest (for example, if minors may enter), further legal considerations may apply.

The information in this article is for information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. You should not rely on, or take or not take any action, based upon this information. Professional legal advice should be promptly obtained.

  1. Include a Skill-Testing Question

    In Canada, games of pure chance are prohibited as illegal lotteries under our Criminal Code. This includes contests where prizes are given away through random draws, as well as those where prizes are randomly distributed through game cards or on packages (e.g. "scratch-and-win" games).

    For contests of chance, making prize redemption conditional on answering a skill-testing question turns a game of pure chance into a (legal) game of mixed chance and skill. Generally, a time-limited, multi-step and multi-operational mathematical skill testing question, answered without assistance, is sufficient.

    It should be noted that contests of pure skill, such as writing contests judged by a jury, do not require a skill-testing question, although many include one anyway as a precaution. Skill contests do require other disclosures, such as clear communication of the judging criteria and the weight amounted to each criterion.
  2. "No Purchase Necessary"

    Under our Criminal Code, it is also an illegal lottery to award prizes by any game of chance, or mixed skill and chance, where the entrant must pay money or other valuable consideration to play.

    What constitutes "consideration" can be a difficult analysis. Although a contest may not require an entrant to purchase a product to enter, it may require the contestant to take some other action that has value, such as watching a lengthy video (i.e. time) or requiring the entrant to complete an extensive survey (i.e. personal information). Generally speaking, where an entrant has to give up something of value or do something onerous to enter a contest, there is a risk that this will be construed as "consideration."

    The simplest way to avoid the consideration prohibition is to include a "no purchase necessary" mode of entry, such including an address allowing consumers to mail-in for an entry without the need to watch a video or complete a survey. However, participants who choose the "no purchase necessary" route must not be unfairly disadvantaged compared to those entering through the other route (e.g. those who purchase the product have an opportunity to obtain additional entries, while those who mail-in do not).
  3. Don't Forget About Québec!

    International clients often exclude Québec residents from their contests. However, Québec makes up about 25 percent of Canada's population. Although there are additional steps to running a contest in Québec, they are not onerous. It means dealing with the Régie des alcools, des cours et des jeux ("Régie"), having the rules and advertising translated, and paying a duty to the Régie. Thus, for a few minor extra steps, your brand could gain exposure to a significant portion of Canada's population by including Québec residents.
  4. Get a Waiver of Moral Rights and an Assignment of Copyright for User Generated Content Contests

    Contests encouraging entrants to produce user generated content (UGC), such as submitting their favourite photo with your product, are an exciting way to engage your consumers in your brand. However, there are a number of legal issues that need to be considered for these contests and careful involvement from your Canadian legal team in planning the contest is necessary. Since entrants will be creating content to be submitted and used in the contest, one issue that should be discussed are the copyright issues.

    Unlike in the U.S., Canada more broadly recognizes the moral rights held by creators of copyrighted works. Moral rights are automatically created when a work is created, and they cannot be assigned — they can only be waived. A creator of a copyrighted work may sue for infringement upon his/her moral rights when, for example, a work is modified in a way s/he does not approve of or if it is given a negative association. Thus, you should ensure your contest rules include a waiver of moral rights.

    Also, under Canada's Copyright Act, an assignment of rights in a copyrighted work is only valid if it is made in writing and signed by the owner of the copyright. Thus, at a minimum, you should ensure contest rules include a non-exclusive license to publish, display, reproduce, modify, etc. entrants' UGC submissions. Once a winner is selected and confirmed, you can then have winners sign a written assignment of their rights in the UGC submission to you.
  5. Anti-Spam Considerations

    Canada's has a new Anti-Spam Act, which has been passed but not yet entered into force. In addition, not all of the regulations under this Act have been finalized yet. The Act and its associated regulations include a number of provisions which will affect how businesses send marketing communications electronically to the public. Generally speaking, the Act prohibits sending of commercial electronic messages to a recipient without the recipient's permission. "Commercial electronic messages" include marketing and promotional e-mails.

    One aspect of promotional contest mechanics that may be affected by Canada's new Anti-Spam Act is those contests that include a "refer-a-friend" element. For example, contests where the original entrant has the opportunity to gain more entries if she or he refers a friend to the contest. While the last set of draft regulations for the Act included provisions addressing "refer-a-friend" scenarios, these regulations are not finalized and still subject to change. Thus, it remains to be seen exactly how the Canadian government will treat friend referral marketing.

    Although the U.S. has its own anti-spam legislation that addresses referral marketing, marketers cannot assume the Canadian regime will be the same. Thus, once Canada's Act comes into force, you should consult Canadian legal counsel to ensure that your contest complies with the Act.

This article appeared on the Sweepstakes Law Blog.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Jennifer McKenzie
Tamarah Luk
In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.