This information is intended to help UVic employees understand their obligations under various Canadian Laws when conducting a promotional game, contest, or sweepstakes (collectively, “Promotional Game”) directed at residents of Canada who are the age of majority in their resident Province or Territory, excluding the Province of Quebec. 

This information is not a substitute for legal advice.  If you have specific questions with respect to this Fact Sheet or want to ensure your promotional game is legally compliant; you must contact the Privacy and Legal Counsel Office at

Promotional games categories

Three of the most common and legally accepted Promotional Games are:

  1. Sweepstakes: where winners are determined by chance (e.g., random draw, raffle, and seeded prizes (i.e., under the cap or roll up the tab promotions);
  2. Contests: where winners are determined based on skill (e.g., essay writing contest, artistic, or academic merit); and
  3. Giveaways: where winner are determined based on timing (e.g., the first 100 visitors receive a gift or UVic merchandise).

Primary areas of the law

Promotional games are governed by both the Criminal Code and the Competition Act of Canada, contract law, privacy law, and potentially intellectual property law and any requirements of social media platform used in running the contest.

A. Canada's Criminal Code

The Criminal Code makes it a crime to hold a promotional game that has all the following three elements (described more fully below):

  1. Chance
  2. Consideration
  3. Prize

In order to hold a promotional game that complies with the law, you must eliminate one of the above three elements, or it could be deemed an unauthorized lottery, whereby the entrant pays for the chance to win a prize (e.g., a dream home lottery).  Lotteries are highly regulated and restricted and if an unauthorized lottery is conducted, it may subject UVic and you to criminal and civil penalties, as described below.

As eliminating the prize defeats the purpose of the promotional game, the focus of elimination is usually on chance or consideration.

Chance can be eliminated with a contest of pure skill or the addition of skill-testing questions.

  1. Contests of “pure skill” need to be based on true skill, not something any person entering your contest would be able to do. You also need to have clear rules for judging the relative merits of the entries which must be expressly communicated to the entrants in the promotional game’s official rules.

  2. Skill-testing questions are often used to introduce an element of skill into the Promotional Game, and are included in the UVic official rules template for promotional games (“UVic Official Rules Template”). Skill-testing questions should have at least four parts and include addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

Consideration can be eliminated with a “no purchase necessary” option for entry.  At law, consideration is any obligation on the part of an entrant before entering into the promotional game.  Examples of consideration include:

  • Cash entry fee or a purchase requirement;
  • The request for a substantial undertaking on the part of the participant; or
  • Disclosure of personal information from the entrant beyond that which is required to administer the promotional game.

Therefore, entrants should be given an entry option which does not require providing additional personal information or paying a fee, and limit entry participation tasks to 5-10 minutes.

B. Canada's Competition Act

The Competition Act requires the disclosure of the following information to potential entrants as part of the promotional game’s official rules:

  1. The number and approximate value of the prizes;
  2. The regional distribution of your prizes, if any (e.g., if you are selecting one winner from Alberta and five from Ontario); and
  3. The odds of winning (in a sweepstakes this would depend on the number of entries).

C. Contract Law

Contract law makes the promotional games official rule’s a binding legal contract between UVic and the entrant.  You are required to follow the contest rules precisely when awarding prizes or disqualifying entrants running afoul of the rules.  It is extremely important that you review the UVic Official Rules Template to make sure they match precisely with how you are planning to administer your promotional game.  If you do not follow the rules, a disgruntled entrant can sue UVic, which can lead to unnecessary legal liability and negative public relations.

D. Privacy

The University is subject to the requirements of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Information Act.  It is also subject to the Privacy Act.    Appropriate provisions must be made to ensure that Promotional Contests comply with the requirements of FIPPA and the Privacy Act.  This is of particular concern if photographs of minors are part of a contest.

E. Intellectual Property

Some Promotional Contests involve entrants submitting their intellectual property as a submission (e.g., photographs, videos, essays).  In such circumstances, it is necessary to obtain from the entrants their agreement that they are the owner of all copyright in the entered submission.  Further, if the intention is for the University to use the submissions of the entrants for purposes other than the contest itself, it is necessary to obtain a license from the entrant.

F. Social Media Platforms

If any part of the Promotional Game is to be run on any social media platform, you need to review the current rules for each platform on which you wish to run your promotional game.  These terms change from time to time and can typically be found on the platform “Terms of Use” or FAQ sections.  The rules of each platform tend to be different.

  1. Facebook:
  2. Twitter:
  3. Instagram:
Specific language for Facebook/Twitter/Instagram contests are available from the General Counsel’s Office.  The specific language required by Social Media will lengthen the terms and conditions and include terms that UVic would not request but for the contest being run on social media.

Consequences of failing to comply with legal requirements

If the legal requirements for promotional games are not met, the University may be subject to legal action including criminal and civil penalties.

For example:

  • Civil penalties for violations of the Competition Act are up to $10,000,000;
  • Violation of copyright will result in demands for payment for unauthorized use of work and may result in legal action; and
  • A person who discloses personal information for a purpose that is not authorized by the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act may be subject to investigation by the Information and Privacy Commissioner, could be found to have committed an offence under that Act, and is liable for a $2000 fine.

Also, failure to follow a social media platform’s rules could result in suspension or deletion of your account. 

Use of the UVic official rules templates package

The best way to begin your promotional game is to contact to obtain a Contest Request Form.  

The General Counsel’s Office has templates for simple random draw contests and judged contests.  If you contest fits within one of these categories, you will have your approved terms and conditions within 2 weeks of our office receiving your completed Contest Request Form.  If your contest requires custom rules, please contact to discuss timeline and cost to provide terms and conditions.