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House Approves Sweepstakes Bill

November 10, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The House on Tuesday endorsed a compromise bill targeted at stopping the deceptive practices of some sweepstakes companies that have victimized many Americans, particularly older citizens.

The Senate is expected to act quickly on the bill and send it to President Clinton for his signature. The House approved it by voice vote.

The legislation, would require sweepstakes companies to make clear that no purchase is necessary to enter contests and that buying magazine subscriptions or other merchandise does not enhance one’s chances of winning a prize.

It also bars mailings that make statements that a person is a winner unless he has actually won a prize, and requires that the estimated odds of winning be prominently displayed. Sweepstakes companies must honor written requests from people wanting to be taken off mailing lists.

Wrappings that closely resemble government mailings such as Social Security checks and could confuse some elderly people into thinking they are official documents are also prohibited.

The U.S. Postal Service would have subpoena authority and the ability to impose civil penalties of up to $1 million for violations.

``Each one of our districts can have examples of seniors who have fallen prey and unfortunately in many cases have lost their life savings to these unfortunate marketing practices,″ said Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., the chief House sponsor with Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif.

The Senate version was sponsored by Rep. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

The measure gained momentum last spring after congressional hearings at which elderly people told of spending their Social Security checks or squandering their savings in the belief that they were about to win huge sweepstakes prizes.


The bill is S. 335.

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