Lotteries as Incentives for Research Participation

Apr 8, 2013 9:15 am

Researchers may incentivize study subjects by entering their names in a lottery operated by the study team. If a study’s incentive budget is small, a lottery allows one subject, drawn at random from the pool, to receive the full amount of the incentive budget. Subjects may find the chance to win this somewhat larger amount more attractive than the certainty of receiving a smaller amount.

  • Requirements and responsibilities when operating a research lottery

    Research lotteries are regulated by the state in which the research takes place. In most cases, Michigan law requires anyone operating a lottery to obtain a raffle license from the state. The law allows an exception, however, for qualified organizations to operate lotteries without a raffle license.

    As a qualified organization, the University of Michigan is authorized to conduct lotteries without a raffle license, as long as the lotteries meet the following criteria for the statutory exception:

    1. There may be no presale of tickets.
    2. There may be only one drawing per day, and the value of the daily prize may not exceed $100.
    3. There may be no second-chance drawings for those who do not win. (In the context of a research lottery, this means that a researcher who wishes to offer multiple prizes must organize subjects in separate pools, to ensure that each subject has only one chance to win.)

    IRB regulatory staff, in conjunction with their assigned responsibilities, will review the lottery plans, to be sure that they comply with Michigan law. Researchers are responsible for knowing the regulatory requirements for lotteries conducted outside Michigan.

    When conducting a research lottery, the University of Michigan study team is responsible for

    • operating the lottery
    • maintaining the pool (or pools) of potential winners
    • drawing the winners
    • awarding prizes

    Lotteries in research are distinct from sweepstakes, which impose additional requirements, including the fact that the sweepstakes entrants are not required to take part in a study.

    Distribution of the award must proceed through HSIP.

    The State of Michigan Charitable Gaming Division offers guidance on legal requirements for raffles conducted in Michigan.


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Last Updated: January 20, 2021 1:00 PM