Can California Residents Enter Sweepstakes from Liquor Companies?

A Change in Sweepstakes Law that Every Californian Sweeper Should Know About

Image of a wine tasting at a Californian vineyard.
California Residents Can Now Enter to Win Liquor Sweepstakes. Image (c) Mark Edward Atkinson/Tracey Lee / Getty Images

Can Residents of California Enter Alcohol Sweepstakes?

While this wasn't always the case, California residents are not prevented by law from entering sweepstakes offered by alcoholic beverage companies. In fact, recent amendments to California sweepstakes law makes the state among the more progressive when it comes to liquor marketing.

Why Were So Many Sweepstakes Void in Canada?

Starting way back in 1937, and enforced since the early 2000s, California law prohibited alcoholic beverage companies from using sweepstakes and contests to promote their products.

California was the only one of the 50 United States to have such strict laws about marketing alcohol.

The law in question was Section 25600 of the Business and Professions Code (read the full text of the law), which read in part:

No licensee shall, directly or indirectly, give any premium, gift, or free goods in connection with the sale or distribution of any alcoholic beverage.

To comply with the law, sweepstakes sponsored by companies from small Napa Valley wineries to giants like Budweiser and Jack Daniels had two choices: they could either prohibit entry from residents of California or they could offer Californians an insignificantly small prize should they be chosen as winners. 

According to an article in the Sacramento Bee, no prize could be awarded in an alcohol-related sweepstakes worth more than "25 cents for beer-related contests, $1 for wine and $5 for distilled spirits."

For this reason, "void in California" was commonly seen in sweepstakes rules, although some sweepstakes would allow Californian winners to receive a miniscule prize, whereas winners from every other state would receive a huge prizes like a boat.

A frustrating situation for any sweeper who lived in "The Golden State."

The intent of the sweepstakes restrictions was to curb heavy drinking among young people, but in a court case objecting to the California sweepstakes laws, Coors argued that "sweepstakes tend to influence market share among suppliers but do not increase the overall consumption of alcoholic beverages, " meaning that prohibiting sweepstakes didn't help solve the problem.

 

Good News for California Residents: The Laws Have Changed!

In January of 2012, the California Legislature passed Senate Bill 778, which amended Section 25600 of the Business and Professions Code to allow alcoholic beverage companies to offer sweepstakes and contests, with some restrictions, including:

  • No alcoholic beverage purchase can be required, or even encouraged by offering game labels on corks, bottle caps, labels, or other alcoholic beverage packaging (as many soft drink companies do).
     
  • Companies cannot require that people visit a retail location to complete an entry.
     
  • Sweepstakes information can be included on a hang tag found on a bottle if, and only if, that information is also available through other methods, and that there is an alternate entry method available.
     
  • And more restrictions designed to ensure that entry is freely available, without any pressure to buy products.

With the passage of this amendment, most alcohol-related sweepstakes are once again available to residents of California. 

This is also good news for the many vineyards and other small liquor companies, who rely on sweepstakes to help them increase brand awareness in a heavily competitive industry.

But Wait... There's More!

In September of 2015, California once again amended their sweepstakes laws, this time allowing alcoholic beverages to be part of a prize.

This is something that many other states prohibit.

Alcoholic beverages cannot be the sole prize awarded; rather they must be an "incidental part of a prize package."

How incidental the alcoholic prize must be is unclear. Probably, having a free glass of wine at a wine tasting trip in Napa Valley, for example, would now be allowed for California residents.

So if you're a resident of California who loves to enter sweepstakes, you can now rejoice in the knowledge that your state has gone from one of the strictest to one of the most progressive in terms of what you can win from alcohol companies.

"Void in California" is something you see a lot less often these days.