Gene Nutt's best intentions for giving away a PlayStation 3 console almost ended up costing him $10,000.
Nutt, owner of Game Nut Entertainment, 844 Mass., agreed Thursday to settle a case being brought by the Douglas County District Attorney's Office, which accused Nutt of running an illegal lottery in connection with an upcoming PlayStation giveaway.
Game Nut has been registering paying customers since late November for a drawing to be conducted Dec. 22. The winner will receive a 60-gigabyte, "impossible-to-get" PlayStation 3, Nutt said, which lists for $600 retail but typically goes for $1,000 to $3,000 online.
"It's a fun, little thing to do," Nutt said Thursday. "We just want to have a good time with one."
One problem: By limiting the drawing only to customers making an in-store purchase, Nutt's store had been violating terms of the Consumer Protection Act.
After a brief investigation by the office's Consumer Protection Division, Nutt was served with papers Thursday outlining the problem and telling him to stop. Nutt quickly agreed to notify all customers already registered for the drawing - perhaps 200 in all - by sending each a letter outlining two available remedies:
l Customers with receipts may return the merchandise they purchased for a full refund, and still remain entered in the drawing.
l Anyone visiting the store - whether making a purchase or not - may register for the drawing once a day leading up to the event, set for 6 p.m. Dec. 22.
Nutt said he had 48 hours to get the letters out or would face a potential penalty of up to $10,000. The settlement formally awaits approval in Douglas County District Court, but Nutt isn't waiting.
"I have a lot of work to do tonight," he said.
Charles Branson, district attorney, said that his intention was not to pursue a fine against Nutt. His office simply wants to ensure that customers are protected, and that businesses learn the importance of following the rules.
"It is not our intention to run anyone out of business for making a mistake," Branson said. "Our job is to educate as much as punish. Mr. Nutt was very cooperative and wants to make sure he is operating within the law."
As for the drawing itself, Nutt is confident he will continue to get plenty of takers. Registrants must be present in the store Dec. 22 to win, and a similar drawing last year - for an Xbox 360 - drew so many entries that it took 20 minutes to finally get a winner.
That's why, he said, the store had limited early entries this time to people making purchases. Nutt figured that it would cut down on the number of entries, and therefore speed up the process of giving away the hottest gaming console on the planet.
Since the beginning, he said, the giveaway's rules have called for allowing anyone - whether making a purchase or not - to register the day of the drawing.
Now it's an open box for the next two weeks.
"I'm out here trying to have a good time and give something away, and thank people for shopping with us, and I'm getting slapped on the hand for it," said Nutt, who gives Branson's staffers high marks for their professionalism and understanding in the case. "I'm just glad I'm doing it correctly now."