I've read here: http://www.fraudaid.com/scamspam/lottery/foreign_lottery_federal_statute.htm that it is illegal for U.S. citizens to play foreign lotteries (although many Americans play the Canadian lotto, and many non-U.S. citizens play the U.S. lotto, so wtf?), however, is it illegal for U.S. citizens to play foreign sweepstakes? The difference between a lottery and a sweepstake being that to play a lottery, you have to pay to play, but sweepstakes are either completely free or require a free alternative method of entry next to the option with payment.

Now, of course, most of these are scams and whatnot, but let's say there is a genuine sweepstake in England organized by a certain company, where entry to the competition is either by paying or by the alternative and free method of applying by telephone/mail, etc.

Is it "illegal" for a U.S. citizen to participate in this foreign sweepstake, either by paying or by entering the competition by the alternative free method? Once again, there is a difference between a lottery (payment is necessary) and a sweepstake (payment is possible but not necessary), so does the law only apply for lotteries or sweepstakes as well?

If anyone could help, I'd appreciate it!

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    First time I hear such a claim. Since when US citizens are not allowed to buy lotto tickets outside of US? The link you provided doesn't provide any basis to its claim. – littleadv Apr 10 '14 at 19:28
  • Well it's hard for me to decipher the "law-speak," but does the "18 U.S. Code § 1953 - Interstate transportation of wagering paraphernalia" not say precisely that? That's how I understood it at least, and that's why I'm asking whether sweepstakes are treated differently, because it's hard to decipher the law... – f3tus Apr 10 '14 at 20:07
  • Here is another link where it says it is illegal to play foreign lotteries: michigan.gov/ag/0,4534,7-164-17337_20942-256173--,00.html Still, is it illegal to play free foreign sweepstakes? – f3tus Apr 11 '14 at 16:38
  • I found the answer on forums.online-sweepstakes.com, it is NOT illegal for U.S. citizens to play foreign sweepstakes! – f3tus Apr 13 '14 at 13:57
  • You misunderstood. It is not illegal to play foreign lotteries. It is illegal to do that via mail. – littleadv Apr 13 '14 at 15:19

It is not illegal to play a foreign lottery, or for a foreigner to play in the US lottery.

What is illegal (at least according to the statute you linked to) is to buy it across the State border. I.e.: you can buy a lottery ticket in an English lottery - when you're physically in England. You cannot buy it via mail/email/phone/whatever else method where you're not actually physically present there. You cannot, also, bring that ticket back with you. It has to stay in England, and you have to cash it in England if you won. You can bring the winnings back (declaring them properly, obviously).

I would say sweepstakes be treated like a lottery ticket, for the purpose of this law (it's a lottery essentially, a game of numbers).

I am not an attorney, and this is my understanding of this law.


The claim on that website is without connection to the law it links to - the law bill talks about 'Interstate transportation of wagering paraphernalia', and not in any way about participating in a lottery. To me it seems like it is a completely unfounded claim.

You should be worried if you plan to transport Canadian lottery tickets across the US, for sure.

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