Sweepstakes tickets questioned in Jefferson County

JEFFERSON COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - Christina Ross says she is upset that her son, who's just 13 years old, was sold a Pot "o" Gold Sweepstakes ticket at a Jefferson County Convenience store Friday.  Ross says her son went in to buy flashlight batteries and when he stepped to the counter to pay, told the clerk he wanted a ticket.  Ross says the clerk handed him a ticket...no questions asked. He stepped outside to play, and won five-dollars.  She says her son went back in to redeem his prize and was told that he had to be 18-years old to play.  She says the clerk gave the boy the prize money and he left.   "If it says you must be 18 to purchase, before you hand him the ticket, you must make sure they're 18 years old," Ross says.    

But for some these tickets and others like them raise a bigger question:  are they legal to be played in the state of Alabama?   "Because if you buy one of these you have a chance to win cash prize...that's gambling," says Bill Veitch, deputy district attorney of Jefferson County.  He says he is fully aware of the caveat provided in a court ruling that if you win something of value with the sweepstakes tickets, they're legal.

For example, the Pot "o" Gold ticket promises 5 minutes of free phone time.   Still, Veitch says when participants can win up to 16-thousand dollars, on top of the free phone time it's an "illegal lottery."  Christina Ross and her husband agree.  "You spend your dollar and take a chance as in a lottery.  And if you win money, it's the same as gambling to me"

A spokesperson for the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office says there are some sweepstakes tickets that are legal, others that are not.  He says they investigate them on a complaint basis.

The manager of the convenience store admitted to selling the tickets to minors, but only those who say their parents sent them in to purchase tickets.