Yes, you did read it right, to raise local awareness of police powers against anti-social behaviour, Surrey police recently ran a free-entry “ASBO” scratchcard prize competition. But did you have to get an ASBO to win and was the competition legal?
Topic: Games of chance and skill
Who: The Surrey Police
When: February 2005
As part of its "Surrey Crime Stoppers Campaign", Surrey Police recently ran an "anti-social behaviour" prize event. But was it legal?
Entry cards were distributed free to local residents. The prize event was in two stages.
The first stage consisted of answering 4 questions about anti-social behaviour orders and other anti-social delights. Against the questions were scratch panels offering 2 alternative answers to each question. For instance, question 4 was "if you receive an ASBO could you be banned from seeing some of your friends in public places?" The alternative answers suggested were "yes" and "no."
Those who scratched off the correct panel for each question (indicated by a smiling face) went through to stage two.
Stage two was a free prize draw from amongst all those who answered the 4 questions correctly.
Legal problems with the competition?
But aren't there legal issues with mixed skill and luck prize events? Surely the police should know given that it is a criminal offence under the Lotteries Amusements Act 1976 to conduct an illegal prize promotion.
Marketinglaw is pleased to announce that having run its legal eye over the promotion, it is able to give Surrey Police a "get out of jail free" card.
The relevant law here is in section 14 of the Lotteries Amusements Act 1976. This applies to prize events where there is some element of skill required. Such competitions will be illegal unless "success depends to a substantial degree on the exercise of skill.
"Substantial skill" requirement
Now on the face of it, there might be an issue here. Clearly there is some skill involved in answering the questions correctly, but is it enough to make winning depend to a substantial degree on skill?
The answer is that if at the end of the day significant numbers of participants get through to stage two so that there will still be high odds against any individual participant winning the prize, then there could be an exposure to an argument that insufficient skill was required to win.
"Run in connection with a business" requirement
But hang on, there is another saving for Surrey Police. Section 14 makes it quite clear that its requirements only apply to a competition run "in connection with any trade or business or the sale of any article to the public".
Applying that test, it looks as though Surrey Police are home and dry.
But isn't there still an exposure to illegal lottery problems on account of the second, names out of a hat stage? No, because there is no payment or other contribution required to enter.
Why this matters:
Although the UK's current prize promotion laws are under substantial review and likely to be reformed before the end of 2005, this example shows that the present laws are not all bad and not rocket science either. We wish Surrey Police the best of luck in their imaginative approach to developing their profile and improving public knowledge of ASBOs.