Federal law permits commercial enterprises to conduct lotteries and games of chance (characterized by the 3 attributes of prize, chance, and consideration) as long as the lottery is “occasional and ancillary” to the enterprise’s main purpose. However, Maine law prohibits the conduct of lotteries by commercial enterprises. Maine law does allow lotteries, beano/bingo and games of chance to be conducted by non-profit organizations. In most cases, such games and lotteries must be licensed by the Maine State Police, and stations should retain a copy of the license for their files. Maine law also sets limits on the dollar value of prizes. Stations are encouraged to read the Beano/Bingo and Games of Chance statutes at Title 17 (chapters 13-A and 14) in the Maine Statutes. Also visit this page for more details on rules, guidelines and FAQs concerning nonprofit gaming in Maine.
Can my station air ads for Hollywood Slots or Oxford Casino? Yes. Federal law permits the airing of ads for casinos as long as they are legal in the place where they are conducted (see below). The Maine Gambling Control Board does have rules governing the content of such ads; read the rules here (scroll down to chapter 14).
Can stations in Maine advertise other casino gambling, for example Atlantic City casinos? Yes. As long as the activity is legal where it is conducted, and as long as the actual gambling activity does not occur in violation of Maine statute, stations may advertise casino gambling. The US Supreme Court, in the Greater New Orleans Broadcasters Association case (1999), struck down the federal ban on casino advertising, as long as no state laws would be violated as a result. In a private letter opinion issued to MAB in March 2001, the Maine Attorney General’s Office indicated that the Maine criminal prohibition against “advancing gambling activity” would not be enforced against Maine radio and television stations advertising lawful casino gambling activities. (Indian casinos, such as Foxwoods, are governed by the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, and it has always been legal to advertise them.)
A local snowmobile club wants to hold a “poker run,” in which snowmobilers collect cards at various checkpoints and then win prizes based on the best poker hand. Is this legal? Yes, as long as (1) the snowmobile club is organized as a non-profit organization, and (2) the club has a license from the State Police to conduct the game.
Can I put my advertisers’ names in a hat and conduct a drawing for a prize, such as a trip? Probably not. If buying an advertising package is the “cost” of entering the contest, this would constitute consideration. Thus, the three elements of a lottery are present — prize (the trip), chance (the random drawing), and consideration (buying the ads).
Should I accept advertising for online sites that purport to “teach” people how to gamble, e.g. how to play Texas Hold’em or how to bet on sports? It depends. Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act on Sept. 30, 2006, and President Bush signed the bill into law on Oct. 13. The measure makes it illegal for U.S. banks and credit card companies to settle transactions for patrons of Internet gambling sites. This effectively wipes out Americans’ access to true online gambling. However, there are numerous sites that purport to be “educational” in nature and are aggressively advertising on American media because they often make contact with users outside of the website, urging them to visit another site where the users can place actual bets. It remains to be seen whether advertising for these “educational” sites will dry up in view of the new federal law. Stations should be very careful to check the content for any ads placed by “educational” gaming sites and, when in doubt, contact legal counsel.
Whom do I call to get an answer to a specific question about advertising games of chance? Specific questions about beano/bingo or games of chance may be directed to the Maine Dept. of Public Safety, (207) 624-7210.