The lone state to currently ban residents of legal drinking age from entering contests and sweepstakes conducted by alcoholic beverage makers may soon join the rest of the country.
The California legislature is considering a bill that would allow its residents to take part in such promotions as long as certain requirements were met.
The bill, SB 778, would amend the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Act to permit authorized vintners, breweries and distilled spirit manufacturers “to conduct, sponsor, or participate in a consumer contest or sweepstakes…offering the chance to win prizes.”
Specifically, the sweepstakes advertising would have to comply with the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s regulations and alcoholic beverages could not be awarded as prizes.
Caps, corks, labels, cartons, cases and other purchase materials could not be used to redeem prizes and neck hangers could include an entry form only if similar entry forms were available at the point of sale or where an alternative means of entry was available.
The bill would not allow for marketing schemes where consumers earn points based on purchases made over a period of time that can be redeemed for prizes or additional contests or sweepstakes entries.
The California ban has been in effect for 13 years after complaints that heavier consumption led to better prizes. The state effectively banned contests by adopting rules that capped prizes at 25 cents for beer, $1 for wine and $5 for liquor. Although beverage manufacturers filed suit, challenging the rules, they were upheld in court.
Proponents argue that the legislation would help boost California brands – particularly in the Napa Valley wine region – by allowing them to take part in such contests, which typically offer all-expenses-paid trips or cash prizes.
But the bill is not without its detractors, who claim that the promotion of alcoholic products in sweepstakes or contests glamorizes consumption and could lead to a rise in underage drinking.
The state Senate unanimously passed the legislation in late January and the bill is now under consideration in the General Assembly.
To read SB 778, the proposed legislation, click here.
Why it matters: The legislation has support from trade groups like the Wine Institute and Family Winemakers of California and has sailed through the legislature so far. Despite the concerns of opponents, the fact that such sweepstakes and contests are legal in all 49 other states – and the argument that it will support local industry – weigh in favor of its passage.