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The Responsible Gambling Council (RGC) is an independent non-profit organization dedicated to problem gambling prevention.

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Contest or No Contest

by Jon Kelly | Apr 20, 2012 05:47 PM

Newscan, Vol. 14 Issue 15

From time to time, prevention programs of the Responsible Gambling Council include contests, like the one that’s currently running as part of our Safe or Sorry campaign. These contests are designed to attract attention and promote audience participation—and though we offer a prize, we try to avoid the term ‘win,’ saying instead that participants have a ‘chance at’ a particular item. (Check out our Safe or Sorry print campaign, for example.) 

Some people, particularly those who have first-hand experience of gambling problems, argue that we should not use contests because they are a form of gambling. In our view, by definition, a contest is not gambling because the contestant doesn’t risk anything of value. So this is a dilemma for us. We use contests because we know there is virtually no demand for ‘responsible gambling’ or safer gambling messages. There may be a need but there is little demand. We know that the biggest challenge is getting people’s attention. The best prevention information in the world is useless if no one sees it. And some demographic groups, particularly young people, are difficult to engage. That’s why, when we build a contest, we’re careful to embed some learning element, such as a quiz based on safer gambling tips or debunking common gambling myths. (We want participants to learn something, even if it’s just by accident.)

We know that contests bump up our reach but it’s hard to say by how much. For example, in the recent run of the Ontario-wide Safe or Sorry campaign (January to March 2012) about 37,000 people visited the website and, of those, 5,000 entered the contest. Interestingly, we saw a real spike in contest entries when a number of contest sites referred young people to our contest. (These are sites like contestgirl.com and canadasweepstakes.com that find online contests and tell their subscribers where to win free stuff.) Since these sites tend to focus on youth, they fit very well with our campaign and our visits spiked—with no additional cost or effort on our part. 

So we know that contests help us reach more people, though it’s difficult to measure how many. Overall, we believe they have value.