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Are Twitter bets legally binding?

What makes a Twitter bet binding? A legal expert explains.
What makes a Twitter bet binding? A legal expert explains. AP Photo/Richard Drew, File

When you make a bet on Twitter, do you have to follow through?

There’s been plenty of times we’ve seen celebrities make outlandish statements on Twitter: Stranger Things’ David Harbour who promised to be in a student’s yearbook photos if she got 25,000 retweets, and if the Cleveland Cavaliers win the NBA Finals, Cleveland Browns player Damarious Randall has promised to buy everyone who retweeted his post a jersey. 

Tennis star Genie Bouchard even said she’d go on a date with a Twitter follower if the Patriots won the Superbowl in 2017.

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Though Harbour and Bouchard followed through (we’ll have to wait to see if Randall does), there are others out there who haven’t.

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NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers once said, “he’d put his salary” on defending his friend Ryan Braun of the MLB in a doping scandal in a tweet to a man named Todd Sutton.

When Braun was suspended for violating the league’s drug policy in 2013, Sutton asked for Rodgers to pay up.

READ MORE: Twitter is changing its privacy policy; here’s how to opt out of what it shares on you

He even told USA Today this week that he’d settle for a game cheque instead of Rodgers’ full-year salary (for comparison, USA Today reports that would be about US$281,250 compared to Rodgers’ yearly earnings of US$61 million.)

But is Rodgers legally required to hand over the money?

Not in Canada, gaming lawyer Michael Lipton explained.

Lipton, a partner at Dickinson Wright law firm in Toronto, said that while Twitter bets can be valid, this one, in particular, doesn’t meet the requirements.

So what makes a Twitter bet valid?

It’s similar to a bar bet – when two people bet on the outcome of an event in a casual situation, for example, a bar.

“Theoretically, that is enforceable,” Lipton explained. “It really comes down to a contract where you have an offer, acceptance and you have what is called consideration.”

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Consideration is what binds the offer and acceptance, he said.

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First off, Lipton explains that you’d have to check if the bet is legal. Most types of gambling are illegal when it’s not regulated by the provincial government. But private bets are exempt from this.

Since the bet – whether it’s a bar bet or on Twitter – is a private bet between individuals, it doesn’t violate the Canadian Criminal Code.

Then you have to check if “the parties intend to enter into commercial contractual relations that were binding on each other,” Lipton explained.

He said the people involved have to agree on the stakes – and both people have to put up something of value.

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“So there has to be statements for that. Bear in mind that a private bet between individuals is where each of you gets a certain sum of money, or something of value,” Lipton said.

“Each [person has] exposed ourselves for consideration.”

So in the case of Sutton and Rodgers, it’s not enforceable because Sutton didn’t agree to put money or something else of value on the table.

In this case, it’s mere “puffery,” Lipton explained.

“People often say certain things which courts will say, ‘Come on, you don’t really mean that.'”