Starbucks sweepstakes requires Canadians to answer math question.

D says: "A recent trip to Starbucks got me entered into a sweepstakes for $1000.00 USD. While perusing the sweepstakes rules, I came across are very amusing loophole in the rules that will make sure that any Canadian who wins must first pass a math test to claim their prize!

"The line is under section 4, about 10 lines down. It reads:"

If a resident of Canada is selected as a winner, they will be required to correctly answer, without assistance of any kind, whether mechanical or otherwise, a timed, mathematical skill-testing question, to be administered by Marden- Kane, Inc. either by mail, telephone, e-mail, or fax (at its sole discretion) before the awarding of the prize.
(I think Starbucks has to do this because maybe contests of pure chance aren't allowed in Canada? -- Mark) Link to PDF of sweepstakes rules


  1. You said:
    “I think Starbucks has to do this because maybe contests of pure chance aren’t allowed in Canada?”

    Pretty much it. There’s some stupid law in Canada that giving away prizes and such is a lottery and as such is only allowed by governments, not individuals or corporations, in Canada. So the “skill test” component skirts (skips? absolves) the law. Turns it from random chance to “someone doing a job” or something like that.

    We do several contest giveaways every year on my website, and I had to go to a law firm and not only check the legalities of giving away free stuff to Canadians, but spend $$$$ to get the law firm to write up our contest rules and regulations.

  2. It’s not just starbucks. I remember seeing the same thing on a contest when I signed up for AOPA (Airplane Owners and Pilots Association). They were giving away a plane to get people to sign-up and I looked through the rules and saw that if a Canadian one they had to take a math test. In fact it may have been almost the exact same wording as above.

  3. Yeah, pretty much there really is no such thing as a free lunch in Canada. Every “contest” involved a “skill-testing question”. It’s usually a simple, multi-operation arithmetic problem.

  4. The average question is something like (8*3)/4
    As someone who has lived in Canada his entire life, I never really thought about these. They just are.

  5. Lol yeah, I remember seeing the skill testing questions on a box of Smarties when I was a kid.

    LG is also having a contest and the wording they use is I think identical to that above.

  6. Find the integral from zero to pi of 2x*sin(x^2) dx.
    Make those Canadians suffer :)

    Actually in Australia we have a similar thing for non-registered lotteries/sweepstakes, usually turning out to be a guessing competition in the form of a word (like the company’s name or something) with three letters blanked out, which you have to ‘guess’

  7. That’s pretty much right.

    If we have to answer a “skill testing question” it becomes a test of skill, rather than a form of gambling.

    Only the government or a government sanctioned agency (Casino, etc.) can run gambling dens…

    Starbucks, your local Lions or Kiwanas club, church, Kellogs, etc., must officially disguise all lotteries etc with a skill testing question.

    Weird, eh?


  8. Here’s a wikipedia article on the Canadian Skill Testing Question. At least it ensures that our lottery players have a basic ability in mathematics. :)

    CoffeeGeek: Sorry to hear that our laws make your life so difficult.

  9. The silly thing being that it’s an obvious end-run around the spirit of the law, and the law makers don’t care in the slightest. The question really is “So why is it still a law up here?”

  10. The most bizarre example I ran into of this was in the casino in Halifax, which was at the time in a Sheraton, I think.

    In the lobby, just outside the entrance to the casino (you know, the kind with table games & slot machines) you could get a free token for one pull on the arm of a comically over sized slot machine just inside the casino.

    Before handing over the special token, however, the chipper desk clerk asked me “What’s one plus one?”

    Laughing at first, then realizing she was serious, I volunteered the correct answer and was then given a free token to try my hand at the slot machine.

    In the casino.

    Twenty feet away from where she wasn’t allowed to give me a gambling token without it being a “skill contest.”


  11. The most bizarre examples I have seen are in my local liquor store, where the answer to the ‘skill testing’ questions of liquor company competitions is always conveniently taped to the top of the box where you have to put the ballot. I guess the skill involved is recognizing that number to be the solution.

  12. I don’t think this Canadian law is as stupid, weird or bizarre as the American law that insists that any winnings from gambling, game shows or lotteries are *taxable income* (and often subject to additional hidden taxes or fees).

    In Canada your winnings are tax free. Not looking so stupid now, eh?

  13. Prize winnings in Canada are tax-free unless you become a professional gambler, in which case you have to pay tax just like everyone else. You can win one poker tournament, no problem. But once you win your second, you’ll have to pay tax on it.

    If Ken Jennings had been Canadian, his winning streak was long enough that the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency might well have audited him and determined him to be a professional game show contestant.

  14. I see these skill test questions in British motorcycle magazines I get. Usually the questions are related to the contest… an example would be a Yamaha ad that asks “Who does Valentino Rossi ride for?”, with a labeled picture of the guy above the question and Yamaha stickers plastered all over the bike.

  15. Canadian “potential winners” of the Disney Parks’ Year of A Million Dreams promotion also have to submit to this sweepstakes testing business.

  16. One time I won a free hamburger at a fast food joint. When I cashed in my ticket the girl at the counter said “You must answer a skill testing question before you can have your prize. The answer is 12”.

  17. When I was a kid, we won a car in a random drawing at the bank, and had to do the skill-testing question. We got all psyched for it and nominated my dad (who has a PhD in math) to answer it, but when we got the question, it was about as complicated as (2*3) – 1.

  18. As the author of You Can’t Win If You Don’t Enter (Canadian Edition – I am almost finished the American Edition) I can answer almost any question regarding sweepstakes and contests in both countries.

    The reason we have to answer a skill testing question in Canada is sweepstakes are illegal. Contests and lotteries are not. To get around the law, companies running a sweepstakes ask the potential winner a skill testing question, there by legal definition making it a contest, and upon giving the right answer, they can declare the person the winner of the ‘contest’.

    Also, those short questions are also not following the law. The reason a math question is used, vs say a history question, is that math has no language barrier and the question should have 4 parts. eg. 100 x 2 / 4 + 50 – 25 = 75

    And yes, we do not pay income tax on winnings of any kind.

  19. The silly part of this law is when you win a prize at a store, and get a question like 5+3*2. Order of operations says you do the multiplication first, so you get 5+6=11, but the 16-year-old behind the counter says “no, it’s 16” and you have to give him a math lesson as to why he’s wrong and you’re right.

    Either way, they generally give you the prize anyway.

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