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Online Sweepstakes Offers $10M

April 14, 2000

NEW YORK (AP) _ A Web site will give away $10 million Saturday in what is believed to be the biggest attempt yet to appeal to Internet users’ love of getting something for nothing.

The prize, which will be awarded on national TV by iWon.com, is likely to raise the stakes for online giveaways. Several other sites award $1 million or more, while smaller ones offer cars and vacations.

``The main reason I got on the Internet was to enter sweeps,″ said Michelle Sharp, a secretary in Galesburg, Ill. ``As long as you have one entry in, there is always hope.″

Among other prizes at various sites this month: A glass vial of teardrops symbolizing joy and sorrow. A week’s use of a handyman. And in tribute to this year’s Tax Day, a lifetime of tax payments.

One self-described addict has won everything from cash to condoms. ``I have boxes and boxes and boxes of prizes,″ said Camet Otto of Hermitage, Tenn. ``We’re trying to buy a big house to unpack.″

As companies jockey to distinguish themselves on a crowded Net, prizes get larger and more numerous. Advertisers get a captive audience.

Even Publishers Clearing House, one of the largest mail-in sweepstakes, has gone online, though no Internet entrant has yet to win its $10 million prizes.

``We `little people’ sometimes win great things,″ said Penny Bennett of Peterborough, N.H., who won a razor this week. From online and mail-in giveaways in the past, she won T-shirts, a computer and a year of cable.

Glenda Sexton of Lincoln City, Ore., won $1 million from FreeLotto.com, which simulates state lottery games. A co-worker, Sandra Petee, twice won $1. She bought two cans of Pepsi.

The $10 million giveaway comes two days before Tax Day. (The IRS gets nearly $3.5 million of the prize.) Four finalists will appear on Saturday’s prime-time special on CBS, which partly owns iWon.

Visitors to iWon enter the sweepstakes by reading news articles, searching for Web pages or sending electronic greeting cards. IWon is now one of the Internet’s busiest sites.

``We’re rewarding people for what they are already doing online,″ said Bill Daugherty, iWon’s founder and co-chief executive.

The company benefits from $70 million in advertising from CBS. But other sweepstakes succeed simply through word of mouth.

``All you need is one person finding out and word just spreads throughout the sweeping community,″ said Linda Ditty, who runs the Red Hot Sweeps Site listing nearly 2,000 online giveaways.

Some sites offer scavenger hunts; Treeloot.com hides $30,000 daily in a virtual money tree and challenges visitors to select the correct leaf.

The odds of winning are often slim, and many sweepstakes won’t guarantee a winner. To win EZSweeps’ birthday game, the contestant’s name must first be selected at random. Then that person’s birthday, including year, must match the winning pick.

Most sites require registration to enter, and contestants often must be willing to give personal details to help target advertising.


On the Net:

List of sweepstakes: http://www.sweepstakesonline.com

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