Deal or Raw Deal?

Howie Mandel’s stunningly successful Deal Or No Deal television game show had an amusing little side-show.

Viewers were invited to play the “Lucky Case Game” by choosing which of six on-screen gold briefcases was the lucky case. Viewers submitted their choice on the Internet for free or through a text message that cost 99 cents. At the end of the program, the winning briefcase was revealed, and the winners were entered into a random drawing. The winner of that drawing received a prize of as much as $10,000.

One enterprising Georgia lawyer claims that this amounts to illegal gambling and has filed a class action lawsuit to obtain refunds of the 99 cent text message fees (plus attorneys fees, of course):

When a Forsyth County couple sent 99-cent text messages trying to win a prize on the NBC game show “Deal or No Deal,” they engaged in illegal gambling and should get their money back, a lawyer told the Georgia Supreme Court on Tuesday.

So should all other Georgians who sent text messages in the show’s “Lucky Case Game” and lost, lawyer Jerry Buchanan said. A judge hearing the case has estimated the bounty could reach tens of millions of dollars.

The case has been report to the state Supreme Court for the answers to two questions:

1. Does Georgia law allow losers of an illegal lottery to recover the money they lost?

2. And, if so, may the losers recover that money from the lottery’s promoter or organizer?

No mention of the third question.

(Atlanta Journal & Constitution,, Feb. 27)

Since the suit was filed, the game has stopped.


  • Wouldn’t it be fantastic if a GA DA had the integrity to prosecute everyone who returned a claim form for participating in what they just judicially admitted to be illegal gambling?

  • Who received the $.99, the show or the communications company that passed on the messages?

  • “Who received the $.99, the show or the communications company that passed on the messages?” Good question.

    If the communications company was the recipient, then how is that any different from a $0.41 first-class stamp for a mailed entry for a no-purchase sweepstakes?

  • In Vermont, one doesn’t even send in a stamped self-addressed envelope for a contest. There is no cost at all allowed so one would just send in a self-addressed envelope without the stamp. Washington state may have this rule as well. Otherwise the contest or sweepstakes is illegal in the state of Vermont (and perhaps Washington).

  • *Most* sweepstakes say “No Purchase Necessary” to avoid state laws prohibiting gambling.

    Deal or No Deal obviously didn’t do their homework, or they put profit ahead of legal security.

    Still, does anyone believe that the plaintiffs would not have accepted the $10,000 if they had won?

  • I could be wrong(I often am) but didn’t the show also offer the option of free registration at their web site?

    As someone else mentioned, if all the $0.99 went to a Telecom company for registering, tracking and delivering the info, how is it different from the stamp you use sending in entry?

  • If this is illegal, so is any other contest you can enter by either buying a product or sending in a letter.