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Is the Domino’s Random Food Giveaway a Lottery?

Domino’s just launched a huge national advertising campaign promising random customers who place an order using Domino’s own delivery service a chance of receiving some additional free food items with their order.

Domino's free


According to the promotion, one in fourteen customers placing a delivery order will get a freebie along with the food they pay for.

Domino's free

There’s just one problem. Paying a price for the chance at a prize is considered an illegal lottery when conducted by a company even in this context. Oops.

But not so fast. In tiny print in their commercials and elsewhere, those magic words “no purchase necessary” appear as they are required to into order convert what would otherwise be an illegal lottery into a legitimate sweepstakes.


In the official rules, you can send in a request to get a game code by return mail.

B. Request a Code by Mail:
(i) During the Promotion Period, participate without purchase by requesting an entry code (“Code”) by hand printing your name, home mailing address, valid email address, and date of birth on a piece of paper and mailing it along with a self-addressed stamped envelope [emphasis added] in an envelope with proper postage to “Domino’s Surprise Frees Giveaway,” c/o Merkle, Inc., P.O. Box 5005, Department 848994, Kalamazoo, MI 49003-5005.

So, for your expenditure of $1.10 for postage both ways (soon $1.16), once you receive the code, you will have a 1-in-14 chance of winning an e-gift card worth $13.49.

For those who make purchases anyway from Domino’s, potentially getting free food with your order is a nice extra benefit. But for those who want to play the game for free, it is just a roll of the dice, so save the postage.

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11 thoughts on “Is the Domino’s Random Food Giveaway a Lottery?”

  1. “Paying a price for a chance at a prize”
    Yes, that’s a lottery, but this is not. We’re not paying a price for a chance at a prize, we’re paying a price for a pizza. On top of that is a free chance at a prize. Win the prize or not, we still have he pizza. With a lottery, we have only the chance at a prize, no product.
    So, I guess you’ll be alerting us with the next McDonald’s Monopoly game instant wins at random, which is really the same. Buy a product with a chance to get more product at random. Or perhaps the next time Coke does it with their codes under the bottle cap. Or maybe . . .
    As to the mail-in entry, you always see that with contest-like promotions.
    Nice try, though!

    • Randall,

      This is not a lottery ONLY because they are offering a free means of entry. It is long settled law that you cannot include a chance of winning a prize if you require a purchase in order to receive that chance. It matters not that the price of the product has not been raised to cover the things that are being given away. Believe me, Domino’s would not be offering their complicated free means of entry unless they legally had to. And yes, all those promotions from Coke and McD’s would be considered games of chance without their free means of entry. There are many articles online about the legal ways to run a promotion so as not to run afoul of state and federal anti-lottery laws such as this one. Once you eliminate the requirement of “consideration” (such as making a purchase) by giving a “no purchase necessary” option to play the game, the promotion becomes a legal sweepstakes.

    • I am not so sure the USA McDonalds places will ever do an instant win game ever again.

      That last epic fiasco was most likely the complete end to it.

      Well a 1-in-14 chance of winning an e-gift card worth $13.49 is certainly better odds than powerball.

    • I for one appreciated this article, largely on the basis that it hadn’t really occurred to me that yes, this promotion is technically a sweepstakes that would require a “no purchase necessary” option to legally not be a lottery. Likely because a) it isn’t really presented as such and b) unlike most of these sweepstakes the *only* prizes are the small food things, with no larger/non-food prizes that would be far more likely to entice someone to order something they otherwise wouldn’t have just to have a chance of winning.

    • The three criteria for an illegal lottery are 1) chance, 2) prize, and 3) consideration. Were it not for the involved “no purchase necessary” protocol, the Domino promotion would meet all three. It doesn’t matter that you’re buying a pizza with your money. The “consideration” would be that you have to buy a pizza to enter.

      But isn’t the postage to enter without purchase a “consideration”, you ask? No, because it does not go to Domino’s, but rather an unrelated party (USPS) to get the entry materials to you.

      This, of course, is Byzantine. Many companies running similar promotions (like McDonalds) give you the option of just stopping by to pick up a promo piece.

      Meanwhile, as Mr. Consumer correctly the “expectation value” of that promo card is less than the money you’re spending to get it (not even counting the time you spend writing for it). Not a good deal, unless you want a pizza.

  2. I wonder how many mail in entries these things actually end up with. I wouldn’t expect very many. I also wonder what made them choose that amount for the gift card as I doubt the free goodies are going to average $13.50.

    While this is a lottery, I believe the fault here lies in regulation. Why shouldn’t a company be able to run a lottery if it wants to? I also don’t feel it should be a problem if Dominos wants to add a little free food to random orders here and there. It might be a little funny being on a website dedicated to pointing out fine print and advocating against regulation, but a lot of this just feels entirely unnecessary to me. It’s not like Dominos is hiding the fact that it’s a lottery.

    • Hi Joel…

      The concept behind the anti-lottery laws is that gambling is not something that should be encouraged, and should not be offered except by the state, an entity authorized by the state, or by a nonprofit organization (such as one selling raffle tickets for charity). But as long as people are not required to pay for the chance of playing, that takes it out of the realm of an illegal lottery.

      If Wheaties advertised that they have hidden $50 bills in random boxes of their cereal, and people had to buy the cereal in order for a chance of getting that extra money, in essence that would be General Mills conducting an illegal lottery.

      • As you noted in the article, people still do have to pay for the free entry via the cost of postage. You should be able to walk into a Domino’s and fill out an entry for free.

        McDonald’s really bugged me that they included the Monopoly game pieces on select food containers. Someone could go in there, order food, and get zero game pieces. That was encouraging people to pay to play. A co-worked would give me his french fries because he didn’t like french fries. When I asked why he bought them, he said he did it for the game pieces.

      • I understand in essence what you’re saying Edgar. I think it is more that we disagree fundamentally on the what the state’s role here and in similar situations should be. The idea of a state run lottery is a nightmare to me and I don’t play those games at all, but I believe any private entity that wants to run a lottery or gamble on a poker game should be allowed to. Why not let Wheaties put $50 in random boxes and how is that very different from convincing millions of people to pay money into “education” with the chance to get money back? A state run lottery is just as much gambling as your Wheaties example, being run by the state doesn’t make it any better. It doesn’t even prevent it from being corrupt.

        Having said that, I think we differ in opinion, but both opinions are perfectly valid.

        Edgar replies: The big difference, Joel, is that the proceeds of the state lottery go to a public purpose such as schools or road maintenance rather than to the bottom line of huge corporation like General Mills. Yes, we differ in outlook on this… my opinion is that gambling should not be universally allowed.

  3. If Domino’s wants to give away free stuff, more power to them. The law that forces them to make the offer to someone not making a purchase is ridiculous. Most certainly passed by liberals. If you want to get in on the action, buy something first. If you can’t afford to, save up until you can.
    While I’m at it, I can’t stand that guy from Jordan’s Furniture either, BUT, Jordan’s gave away over $30 million of free furniture to 25,000 families in 2007 when the Red Sox won the World Series. Sure, it was 14 years ago but so what ? It’s fun. It’s a game. And 25,000 families are happy. If you don’t like it, go to Bernie and Phyl’s. This is America and there is too much government interference.

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