We have all likely come across pay to enter competitions at some point. They are linked to programs like the X-Factor, I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, and The Chase. Their popularity means that you can now access a lot of them online as well; ITV have a whole section of their website littered with online competitions – the above image is an example of one of theirs that has now ended.
Whilst the prizes on offer always seem amazing, what a lot of these competitions fail to make clear enough is that they operate on a pay to enter basis. This is much more transparent now than it used to be since the crack down on advertising these types of competitions, but lots of people still think they are entering for free when this is not the case.
What we are looking to find out in this article is how they work and if they worth entering for the consumer. We’ve been able to look at dozens of different offers and then come up with guide on the process, the costs, and the value they offer.
What are Pay to Enter Competitions?
We want to start with the basics so let’s first establish exactly what they are. To win the competition, you usually need to answer a very basic question and a large prize is on offer. You need to pay to enter the competition and this can be done in a variety of ways.
The most common was traditionally that of phoning in your answer. So, the competition might ask you a really simple question, like which band sung the hit “Bohemian Rhapsody”? You would then choose from silly options like Queen, The Beatles, Fred the Dog, or Prince Charles. The questions are designed to be so easy that everyone thinks they have a better chance of winning.
The small print is what you need to look out for here, as they often state that you will be charged a fee for your call on top of any network charge. If the fee was £2 then this amount would come off your phone bill, but you would also be charged any network rates that your phone operator issues for calling that number. These numbers aren’t always free to call either, so the overall cost to enter to can really stack up.
Other ways to enter include that of SMS, but again you will be charged the entrance fee plus a standard message rate. Entering online will only charge you the entrance fee for the competition with no additional fees.
Once your entry is in then you will be entered into the draw assuming that you got the question right. If your name gets pulled out, you win the competition. Rarely are there are any runners up prizes here.
Are They Worth Entering?
The short answer to this is that no, they are not really worth entering. This is because they offer very poor value. You may think that a £2 entry fee to win a £100,000 prize is good value, but the reason why this is not true is because there is only one prize.
This means that you need to get incredibly lucky to get anything back from one of these competitions. For example, there could easily be 100,000 entrants into our competition to win £100,000. There is one prize which means that your chances of winning are 100,000/1. This mean that on average you would have to spend £200,000 to win this competition at £2 a turn, and even then, this would leave you £100,000 poorer. If variance was not kind to you, this number could be significantly higher.
On the other hand, 100,000 entrants at £2 each mean that the company will collect £200,000, which results in a £100,000 profit for whoever is running the competition. So it is well worth it for them.
Overall, these pay to enter competitions are some of the worst value that you can play. They seem amazing from the outside, but when you really break down the numbers they are incredibly poor value and should be avoided at all costs. You would be much better off playing the National Lottery or an equivalent, as at least you can get some money back even if you don’t win the whole thing.
Are They Considered Gambling?
There are three tiers that these sorts of things tend to fall into, with some regulated by the Gambling Commission and seen as gambling, and some not.
- Lottery – A game of chance and seen as gambling. Fully regulated by the UK Gambling Commission.
- Raffle – If run by local communities as a non-profit event, then this is exempt from the UK Gambling Commission, even though technically it is gambling.
- Competitions – Seen to be a game of skill and no longer regulated by the UK Gambling Commission.
So, by asking you a question as a condition of entry, these competitions are cleverly exempting themselves from legally being gambling. Even though the questions are more of a formality than a test of knowledge, it is enough of a loophole for them not to be regulated by the UK Gambling Commission.
However, they are actually monitored quite closely by the Gambling Commission as they do set standards as to the level of difficultly of the questions involved. For example, you couldn’t have something like which is the first letter in the word “Monday” – there has to be a slim chance that someone might not know the answer.
Can you Enter for Free?
You may or may not be aware that a lot of these competitions include free entry options. These are often in the form of postal entry where you need to include your details and the correct answer, post it off to the address specified and then this will count as one entry into the competition.
You will notice that the details of these entry routes aren’t all that well publicised, so you will need to dig deep to find out what you need to send and where you need to send it, but pretty much all of these competitions will include an option to do so.
The main reason that they do this is that legislation in certain territories, such as Northern Ireland, state that in order to offer these competitions to players in that country there must be a free option.
Please note that the person entering for free does not need to live or have any ties to these territories. Most of these draws are linked to TV programs that are shown in multiple jurisdictions, and it isn’t worth them changing the terms for each one.
Are they Worth Entering for Free?
Absolutely! These competitions are some of the biggest that you can find, and they offer huge sums of money and great prize packages. To enter for free is the only way to take advantage of these offers, as they then provide huge value.
It will only cost you the price of a postage stamp.
It’s worth noting that not all these competitions will offer you a free option, so you are going to need to dig through the terms and conditions to see if there is one. If you are still struggling, reach out to whoever is running it and ask them directly. If you are based in Northern Ireland or a territory that has free entry options as a requirement then the green light will be on to enter for free.