But Congress is worried that all the hype, the get-rich quick language and "government look-alike stationary" may be victimizing the unsuspecting elderly, causing them to squander money on items they don't need.
A Senate hearing Monday suggests there's reason to worry, reports CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer. Floridian Eustace Hall broke down as he told how he entered contests hoping to finance his daughter's education. According to his daughter, the sweepstakes caused him to spend nearly $20,000 in 1992.
When Carol Gelinas took over her father's affairs, she realized he had spent $60,000 on sweepstakes over 14 years. "I discovered that he was writing 30 to 40 checks each month," Gelinas said. "When his only bills were rent, telephone, and cable TV."
Another daughter said the contests had turned her mother into a recluse. "She couldn't leave her home to visit family and friends overnight, because she might miss a surprise visit from a company representatives," the daughter said.
Karol Carter's 86-year-old father urged her to stay away from these hearings. "He is concerned that I am ruining his chances of winning a Readers Digest sweepstakes when he -- and I quote -- 'am close to winning,'" Carter said.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, called the hearings. She is pushing legislation to regulate the sweepstakes companies and fine them for deceptive practices.
The sweepstakes companies tell Congress their side of the story Tuesday, and they've hired some of Washington's top lobbyists to help them.