Signage Checklist for Contests and Sweepstakes

One of the most effective ways to advertise your promotion in-store is through Point of Purchase Signage. However, when creating signage to promote your contest or sweepstakes, it’s important to know that there are some legalities that you do need to follow.

When running a promotion in Canada, any signage being used to promote your contest or sweepstakes must include a short list of the rules “Short Rules”. According to the Competition Bureau of Canada, here are the guidelines of what should be clearly indicated within these Short Rules:

1) The number and value of all prizes available to be won.
2) Any regional allocation of prizes.
  • If there are prizes in your contest that are only available to be won in a certain province or city/town, this needs to be clearly stated in the short rules.
  • Example: Contest is open to legal residents of NL, NS, NB, and PE only.
3) The skill testing question requirement.
  • If your contest requires a skill testing question in order to redeem a prize, this should also be stated.
  • Example: Correct answer of a mathematical skill-testing question required to redeem any prize.
  • You can find more about skill testing questions here.
4) Details as to the chances of winning.
  • If the odds to win in your contest are known, this must be included in the short rules.
  • However if you are running a sweepstakes where the odds depend on the number of entries received, you can simply state that.
  • Example: Odds depend on the number of entries received throughout the contest period.
5) The contest closing date.
  • It’s also important to state the contest dates, especially the date and/or time in which the contest ends.
  • Example: Contest starts January 2, 2017 and ends March 2, 2017 at 11:59pm EST.
6) No purchase is necessary.
  • As always, with any contest or sweepstakes you should make it clear that no purchase is necessary to enter.


With Short Rules, you’ll find that you may have varying versions as some signage pieces have very limited space. It’s important to try to include as much of this information as possible, but if needed, you can always state where to find the full Official Rules. Example: See for complete rules, prizes available, odds, entry and eligibility requirements.

For more information on signage requirements for your contest or sweepstakes or additional information on Canadian Contest Law, visit the Canadian Competition Bureau.

Keep in mind that WSP is always here for any assistance you need with your contest or sweepstakes. Feel free to contact us with any questions!

Income Tax for Contest Prize Winners

When running a promotion in the United States, any prize over $600 in value is subject to income tax to the winner (in Canada however, contest prizes have no tax implications – possibly the only tax benefit Canadians have over Americans!). That means that when running a promotion in the US, a knowledge of tax laws and in particular, 1099-MISC forms, is needed to avoid penalties or consequences from the IRS.

1099-MISC Income Tax Forms

But first let’s break down what a 1099-MISC form is and the meaning of it. A 1099-MISC form is a tax form that the IRS uses to track miscellaneous income. As a business that specializes in Contests and Sweepstakes, WSP has a great understanding of 1099-MISC forms and the procedures needed to follow when filing them. It is required to file a 1099-MISC form only for individuals that have been paid or won a prize valued at $600 or more during the tax year (above their income). Some businesses make the mistake of filing 1099-MISC forms for employees as well. The IRS is very strict between consumers and employees. You are not required to file a 1099-MISC form for employees, however, you are required to file a W-2 form to report wages, tips and other income paid to the employee during the tax year. There can be significant penalties for filing 1099-MISC forms for employees so that is why you must keep track who is an employee during the Contest or Sweepstakes period.

Filing 1099-MISC Income Tax Forms

The steps and procedures for filing a 1099-MISC form is very simple. It all starts during the Contest or Sweepstakes period, by gathering the winner’s required information by means of a W-9 Form (Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification can be download at which acquires the winner’s full name, address and social security number. At the end of each tax year, it is required that a 1099-MISC form is completed for each consumer that received a prize valued over $600. There are 3 copies – the law states that you are required to send one copy to the consumer, one copy to the IRS and one copy to the business.

Deadlines for Filing 1099-MISC Income Tax Forms to Winners

There are two ways you can file a 1099-MISC form, via mail or electronically. The law states that the business is required to file 1099-MISC forms no later than January 31st. If you miss the deadline, you may be required to pay a penalty fee for each late 1099-MISC form. If you intentionally fail to file a 1099-MISC form, you may be subject to a penalty of $520 per statement.

The good news is that even though filing a 1099-MISC form can take time, there are plenty of online filing services to help. The procedures are very simple and easy to follow which makes it easy for businesses to run Contests and Sweepstakes in the United States to create excitement, give away lots of great prizes and ensure we put a smile on your customers’ faces!

For more information, check out the IRS Government at:

Social Media Game Promotion Guidelines

Social Media is a great tool to take advantage of when running a contest as you are able to create awareness and online visibility. More importantly, it’s free! Here is a run down of the social media game promotion guidelines for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Please note that these networks periodically change their rules and regulations so it is important to check with their guidelines before launching your contest.

It is also important to note that in order to run any successful promotion, you should always create a set of official rules, set time limits, obey any state/provincial laws in regards to bonding the contest and indemnify winners.  And most importantly, have amazing prizes, announce winners with fan-fare and monitor your promotion all the way through.  If you need help with your contest or rules, contact the experts at WSP!

Facebook Game Promotion Guidelines: 

Facebook is a great way to collect entries or giveaway prizes by having participants post, comment or like your contest page. A few examples of promotions you could run are as follows:

  • Q&A – Post a question related to your business and have contestants comment their answers below for a chance to win.
  • Photo or video – Posting and sharing photos for likes and comments for a chance to win.
  • Like to Win – Have contestants like a post for a chance to win, increase their chances by having them comment.

Facebook sets some restrictions on what you can and cannot do when operating a contest on their site. You are not allowed to inaccurately tag content or promote participants to tag themselves in photos that they are not in. You also cannot persuade participants to upload your cover to their personal timelines. Lastly, you must acknowledge to your participants that your promotion is not endorsed or associated with Facebook.

Twitter Game Promotion Guidelines: 

Twitter is another platform you can use to allow contestants to enter your promotion while boosting brand awareness. Here are some examples that you may find useful:

  • Hashtag – Have contestants tweet a particular hashtag chosen by you for a chance to win or receive an entry into your contest.
  • Follow and Retweet – Ask contestants to retweet or follow you for a chance to win, you can also ask them to @mention you so you will be able to see all of their entries.
  • Email Submission – Post a link to a landing page where contestants can submit their email address and receive additional entries into your contest.

Twitter discourages users from creating multiple accounts to enter contests and those users are liable to having their accounts suspended. Therefore you must indicate in your rules that multiple accounts to enter will be deemed ineligible. You must also avoid posting duplicate or near duplicate tweets as this is a Twitter violation and followers may become annoyed by your contest. Furthermore, hashtag topics need to be relevant and efficient.

Instagram Game Promotion Guidelines:

With millions of active users and posts per day, another platform to engage your customers and gain interest in potentially new customers is through Instagram. Here are some simple ideas that have been commonly used as effective promotions:

  •  Like to Win – Ask contestants to like your post and draw a random winner from all eligible entries, then notify your winner with a @mention or direct message. You can also use hashtags in your post to spread the word about the contest.
  • Photo or Video – Have your contestants post a photo or video about your brand with a specific hashtag.
  • Creative Caption – Post an image and have contestants comment a creative caption for a chance to win.

Instagram has similar restrictions to Facebook as you cannot inaccurately tag content or encourage participants to inaccurately tag content. You must also acknowledge that the promotion is not sponsored or affiliated with Instagram. You should also communicate to your participants the official rules and eligibility requirements of your contest.

Snapchat Game Promotion Guidelines: 

If you are going to use Snapchat to run your promotion you may want to consider using other platforms to promote your contest. Snapchat can be quite useful if you want to target a younger audience. Here are some useful promotions you could try:

  • Screenshot Entries – Ask contestants to screenshot your post and send the image to you for a chance to win a prize. You could also reward the first set number of users who screenshot your post to create a sense of urgency and encourage users to check your story more often.
  • Direct Reply – Have contestants directly reply to a post on your story with why they enjoy your product or service for a chance to win. Then select a random winner from all eligible entries you receive.
  • Story Coupons– Post coupons on your story and have contestants screenshot the post to redeem in store. But be sure to account for the users sharing the coupon with others. Set time limits and include codes to create authenticity. You could also send unique coupons directly to contestants.

Similarly to other platforms you must provide official rules for your promotion and release Snapchat from all claims related to your promotion. Overall, you cannot promote spam behavior such as asking contestants to send Snaps to their friends.

Remember that the biggest return on investment from using social media to operate your promotion is the acquisition of leads you can turn into customers. In order to make sure you are targeting people who are genuinely interested in your brand is to give away prizes that you sell or can be redeemed by your business. Also note that you may not be able to sell your business to every contestant but if you can get them to give you their information, you may be able to sell to them later.

For more information:

Check out the guidelines for Facebook at or Twitter at or Instagram at  or Snapchat at

Contest or Sweepstakes Promotion Bonds

There are specific requirements for operating a contest or sweepstakes in certain states and provinces when the element of chance, prizes and the sale of products or services are present. This is something that is often overlooked by companies who are not familiar with running game promotions, but government regulations and stiff penalties apply when the requirements are not met. The following outlines the general guidelines for surety bonds and registration requirements for contest or sweepstakes promotions. However, like most aspects of a contest, support from a great games company (like WSP) will alleviate any issues and ensure the proper government requirements are met.

The purpose of registering and or creating a bond for a game promotion is to protect consumers against fraud or companies failure to redeem prizes due to lack of resources or other reasons. Which is why there are not only registration and bond requirements, in most cases a specific list of winners is required to be filed after awarding the prizes.

New York Contest Requirements

In New York, when the total value of prizes for the duration of a game promotion exceeds $5,000, contest administrators are required to register and bond their contest with state authorities. The Secretary of State requires contest administrators to file their official rules and the details outlining their game promotion 30 days prior to the launch of the promotion. A filing fee also applies and a trust account or surety bond must be obtained in the amount equal to the total prize value offered.

Florida Contest Requirements

In Florida, the same requirements as New York occur however, contest administrators file to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer services. The only other difference is that the registration and bond must be filed at least 7 days before the start of the promotion. But like New York, a filing fee also applies and a trust account or surety bond must be obtained in the amount equal to the total prize value offered.

Rhode Island Contest Requirements

Rhode Island statute requirements are slightly different. Contest administrators must file an application and official rules with the Secretary of State along with a filing fee. There is no trust account or surety bond requirement. Registration is only required if the game promotion is conducted in a retail establishment with prizes exceeding $500.

Arizona Contest Requirements

In Arizona, contest administrators are required to complete a registration form that outlines the contest details and submit to the Arizona Attorney General. They must also submit a sworn statement under oath that no addition has been added to the determined purchase price for the product in affiliation with the contest. Within 10 days of awarding all prizes, the names and addresses of the winners must also be submitted.

Quebec Contest Requirements

In Canada, those who decide to run a contest in the province of Quebec must abide by the regulatory laws of the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux (Régie). If the contest prize value is greater than $100, contest administrators are required to submit contest details to the Régie. There is a registration requirement to the Régie if the total prize value exceeds $2,000. The official rules and other contest details must be filed at least 10 days before the start of the contest. A 10% fee of the total prize value is imposed when the contest is open to residents from Quebec only. This fee becomes 3% when the contest is open to contestants from Canada only including Quebec. Lastly, 0.5% is enforced when the contest is open to any group of contestants including Quebec.

Final Thoughts

You may notice that some game promotions exclude these states and provinces from participating. That is because many companies would rather avoid the fees and hassle that comes with it.  However, from our experience, because Quebec, New York and Florida customers are so often prohibited from playing in national promotions, customers in these areas are often the hungriest for these types of promotions, which can turn into big benefits and sales returns.

For more information, check out the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services page at: or NY Secretary of State page at:  or the Regie at:,%20r.%206 or the Arizona Attorney General page at: