Lawmaker calls for regulation of sweepstakes
By PAUL WILBORN, Times Staff Writer
Angered by what he calls "deceptive" and "fraudulent" sweepstakes
promotions, a Florida lawmaker said Thursday he will sponsor a
bill to regulate the mailings sent by the industry.
"We have to somehow regulate this industry which is fraudulently
deceiving thousands of people," said Sen. Walter "Skip" Campbell,
Campbell's bill, which is being drafted, would require the industry
to print the odds of winning a prize -- often 1-in-200-million
-- in the same type size used to describe the prize. The bill
also would add civil penalties to sweepstakes companies that target
"There is no doubt in my mind it is a problem with seniors," Campbell
said. "But now that I am looking into it the more it seems like
it's a problem with everybody."
Campbell said his office had heard from a number of constituents
who traveled to Tampa thinking they were sweepstakes winners or
who felt they were deceived by sweepstakes promotions. The issue
first reached his office through a Times story in October about
a 75-year-old Fort Lauderdale woman who flew to Tampa to claim
her prize. That story was published in the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.
The Times has documented 12 instances in which contestants have
flown to Tampa thinking they had won the American Family Publishers
sweepstakes. Those entries carry a Tampa return address and are
processed by Time Customer Service, a sister company of American
Family Publishers, under the Time Warner umbrella.
The company is being investigated for what Attorney General Bob
Butterworth has labeled "reprehensible" and "deceptive" trade
Last week, American Family Publishers announced it would voluntarily
stop distributing two sweepstakes promotions that Butterworth
Campbell said his office is working closely with Butterworth's
office and with the Division of Consumer Services to draft the
Russ Oster, an aide to Campbell, said the bill would require that
sweepstakes promotions not hide disclaimers in small type while
touting supposed winnings in large type. Solicitations also would
be required to carry an actual address of a sweepstakes company
and toll-free numbers of state regulatory agencies so contestants
can call with questions or complaints.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Lisa Carlton, R-Sarasota County,also plans
to sponsor a bill regulating the sweepstakes industry in the next
legislative session, an aide said.
American Family Publishers could not be reached for comment Thursday.
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