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The Unintended Consequences Of Law

or How Marketers Avoid Canada's Gaming Laws

Michele Catalano noticed a very weird section on a scratch-off game card at Payless Shoes. The official rules section contained this:

Canadian residents only: To receive any prize or discount, you must first correctly answer, unaided in any way, the math skill-testing question below.

Question: Add 22+16; then subtract 18; then multiply by 8; then divide by 2. Answer________________________________.

Like her you're probably thinking, WTF? I know I was...

Anyway some quick searching revealed that the term "mathematical skill-testing question" appears too often to be by random chance. Clearly the test and the wording are in place to comply (or skirt) some legal requirements specific to Canada.

A little more searching revealed the answer in the text of Games of Skill and Chance in Canada:

Betting and gaming operations are illegal in Canada. The combined effect of sections 197 to 206 of the Canadian Criminal Code (the "Code") has the effect of making any for-profit gaming or betting enterprise illegal, doing so in language broad enough to capture almost any activity in which people pay money for a chance to win a greater value than they stake.

The casinos, slots and other gambling activities licensed by the provinces of Canada exist as a result of explicit exceptions created by the various provisions of section 207 of the Code.

Then there are the "games" played for a chance to win valuable items, including the ubiquitous promotional contests that are a regular part of many marketing plans. The Code contains no explicit exemption allowing these games to operate. Their right to exist has been carved out of real and perceived "gaps" in the scope of activities covered by sections 197 to 206 of the Code. This paper will canvass in detail the sections of the Code applicable to "games," and the way contests of various sorts theoretically exempt themselves from prosecution by the addition of a "skill-testing question" and a "free-entry alternative."

For some reason I'm reminded of the contortion of South Carolina law that allowed video poker machines to "refund," thereby allowing gambling, or their airline bottle liquor laws, or their membership club "bars"... Damn, South Carolina might be the mecca of these blue law busters.

Surely there's hundreds of other example of the unintended consequences of laws like these. Share 'em if you've got 'em.

Comments (13)

Some states will have requi... (Below threshold)

Some states will have requirements for games like this that usually result in those states being exempted from having a shot at winning. I may have seen a similar requirement to the Canadian one for a U.S. state as well at some point.

BTW - 80, right?Wh... (Below threshold)

BTW - 80, right?

What do I win?

A free trip to Canada.... (Below threshold)

A free trip to Canada.

Ha ha!

Let's see, laws with goofy ... (Below threshold)

Let's see, laws with goofy unintended consequences... how about a sloppily drafted Ohio law with the unintended consequence that anybody who sells anything on E-Bay has to have a state auctioneer's license? I think they're still working on figuring out how to straighten this one out.

The SC law cracking down on... (Below threshold)

The SC law cracking down on Geocaching may ban the use of a GPS by anybody looking for historic sites if it passes.

I've been to raffles where they threw in a skill test before the winner claimed their prize to ensure they didn't run afoul of state anti-gambling laws. One in particular was an NRA event and they asked elementary gun safety or gun part questions.

i knew of a beverage store ... (Below threshold)

i knew of a beverage store in SC where the owner thought it was good for buisness when it was published in the local paper that he was ticketed for selling beer on Sunday before 1:00 p.m. (BLue Law)
BTW, you could not buy PANTY HOSE at ALL on Sunday but you could have a cold one after church. :-)

Charlotte,You can on... (Below threshold)

You can only have a cold one in counties or cities over a certain population in SC where residents have voted to allow sales at restauarants or bars. The exception being "private clubs" in other counties which charge a membership fee ($1 for the day maybe - I went into one that had a $1 lifetime once) and pay for a special license from the state (a portion of the day's sales must be given to charitable endeavors as well.)

The crazier thing is going into a Wal-mart in some counties and being able to buy some items and not others or going into Columbiana Mall near Columbia and being able to shop in stores in that mall that are in Richland County before 1 pm on Sunday while the ones on the other end of the mall in Lexington County have to wait until 1.

The non-alcohol related blue laws are about to go the way of the dinosaur. The alcohol ones will soon follow I predict.

Kevin forgot to mention the minibottles in SC in his update above as well.

Nevermind,I never he... (Below threshold)

I never heard them referred to as "airline bottles" before since several states mandated them about the time SC did, they've never been called anything but minibottles here.

Hey - I know it's not the s... (Below threshold)
That Guy in Tokyo:

Hey - I know it's not the states, but being, myself, from South Carolina myself, it's far too easy to make fun of the wackiness of our goofball laws. So I'll choose one biggy from Japan, while I'm still here. Gambling is illegal here, but that doesn't stop them. A huge pachinko/slots (called "pachi-slo") industry is booming here. How do they get away with it? You win little meaningless beads. Why would you want to do that? Because, they also own a separate business frequently a block down the road from a pachinko parlor - whose sole purpose is to trade meaningless beads for meaningful money and prizes. Pretty smart, though not entirely on the up and up, I'd say. Ha ha. Does that count?

ewww...your source.... (Below threshold)

ewww...your source.

I once worked a refreshment... (Below threshold)

I once worked a refreshment booth at a bike rally in which it was illegal to sell beer. We elected to sell drinking straws for $3 apiece.

Of course, with every straw purchase you received a free beer . . . worked out quite nicely!

Along those same lines, my great uncle had quite a reputation for making moonshine a long time ago. At the time it was legal, so long as you didn't sell any. He complied, giving free bottles of his "corn squeezin's" to friends and neighbors, sometimes in exchange for work or goods, but usually not. He did shoot a man once, though, because the fellow, when asked by a town marshall where he got the booze, stated that my uncle had sold it to him. When the facts came out, he wasn't charged--the laws of the day deemed shooting the source of a malicious lie quite reasonable.

I've also heard (although I haven't taken time to try to verify it) that in Texas, you may carry a shotgun so long as it's loaded. Seems that while it's perfectly legal to carry a firearm in plain sight, carrying an unloaded shotgun constitutes carrying a "club," which is expressly forbidden by law.

Pennsylvania has got some g... (Below threshold)

Pennsylvania has got some great laws.

Let's see . . . Liquor cannot be sold on Sundays. Period. My favorite, though, is the "open container" law. You cannot carry an open container of alchohol outdoors. Thus, people go to great lengths to cover their cans and cups of alchohol.

Laws creating an unintende... (Below threshold)

Laws creating an unintended or strange result are all around us. Sometimes the consequences are quite long lasting. Mansard roofs are a response to a tax system that taxed buildings based on the number of floors. By pitching the roof off sharply and bringing the shingles down below the windows of the top floor eliminated one compete floor for tax purposes. The tax disappeared long ago but the mansard roof is still in use.






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