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Crazy Canadian Contests
Rachel recently won $5 in a Subway Scrabble promotional contest. Like all Canadians, she had to correctly answer a mathematical skill question in order to receive her prize. Find out why a "skill test" is a uniquely Canadian thing.
Returning from the floating cabin last month, we stopped at a Subway sandwich shop in Port Alberni for lunch. (Alex cried, because she wanted a McDonald's "Happy Meal" - it's all about the toy). Parental units decided fresh ingredients were more important than supporting China's export trade. As a result, we all had a healthier lunch.
Rachel also won a "$5-off Subway Card", after tearing off a "Subway scrabble" game-piece from her drink cup. Yesterday I redeemed the instant prize online (contest ends today, July 13th). I entered the alpha-numeric code printed on the game piece. On the next screen, I was required to pass the uniquely-Canadian ritual of answering a "skill test" question, in order to claim the $5 Subway Card prize. As per usual, it was a math question: What is 6 x 14 ÷ 6 + 48 - 14?
I've lived in a lot of places, but only Canada has a "math test", when you win a prize! When I first arrived, I thought, "Wow, Canada really places an emphasis on basic math skills!" It wasn't till later that I realized that the purpose of the "skill test" is to circumvent Canadian anti-gambling laws.
To learn more about the odd Canadian contest "skill test" requirement, you must first derive the Wave Equation, from Snell's Law of Refraction ... (ack ... I mean, click the following link) ...
With the summer season in full swing, various Canadian businesses run promotional contests as an incentive to attract more patrons. The same thing happens in the United States and other countries. In addition to the Subway Scrabble contest, Tim Hortons (originally a Canadian coffee and donut shop now owned by a U.S. corporation) has a "Roll up the Rim to Win" promotion. The only difference between contests in Canada versus the rest of the world? Canadians must answer a "skill test" question.
Part VII of the Canadian Criminal Code deals with the "Disorderly Houses, Gaming & Betting" (Sections 197 through 213). The law makes it illegal to profit from gaming or betting, with notable exceptions - Provincial lotteries, licensed casinos and charity events.
This law prevents corporations from profiting from games of chance, like Subway's Scrabble and Tim Hortons' Roll up the Rim to Win contests. The only way companies can carry out these promotions and avoid breaking the law, is to exploit the fact that it is legal to allow prizes for games of skill (or mixed games of skill and chance). Thus, in order to hold a contest where one wins by chance, the game must include skill-testing questions.
Of course, most of the questions are math-based and involve simple arithmetic. (By court decision, the question must include three numbers to qualify as a "skill test". I guess there's no skill involved in adding 2 + 2!).
As one might expect, the enforcement of the skill test isn't very rigorous and arriving at a wrong answer may not eliminate the winner from obtaining their prize.
As a side note, the same anti-gambling laws make it illegal to make money in exchange for playing the game, which results in "no purchase necessary" fine print one can see on the official rules and regulations for all such Canadian promotions. Canadians can, if they so choose, enter a contest by writing a letter and requesting a game piece or entry form.
Anyone traveling to Canada is forewarned ... if you want to win free stuff, you better bone up on your grade-school math!