Competitions, lotteries and raffles can be a fun way to raise money and can add interest and excitement to any event. There are various rules and regulations governing lotteries and raffles which you need to be aware of.

Firstly, you must understand the difference between an ordinary competition and a lottery or raffle. A competition is won by skill or talent, whereas a lottery or raffle are won by luck or chance. This difference is important as lotteries in particular are regulated by law.

Competitions are popular with all ages and can provide a useful way to raise income, increase participation and raise awareness. The kind of competition you run is only limited by your imagination and resources. Here are some examples of popular fundraising competitions:

  • talent contests
  • treasure hunts
  • quizzes
  • arts and crafts shows
  • sports events
  • sponsored challenges
  • cake-making competitions and flower or vegetable growing shows
  • pet shows
  • music, dancing or singing contests

Whatever you decide to do, ensure that there is a clear competitive element based on skill or talent, and the judges have the necessary knowledge and experience to select the winners.

Lotteries and raffles

A lottery (or raffle) is defined as:

  • gambling
  • payment is required to participate
  • one or more prizes are awarded
  • prizes are awarded by chance

A lottery is a game of chance, and a raffle is just another name for a lottery. There are several different types of charitable lotteries and you must make sure that if you run a lottery or raffle, it fits within one of these types, otherwise it is illegal.

Small lottery

  • no cash prizes
  • no more than £250 can be used to buy prizes
  • the value of donated prizes is limitless
  • there is no limit on an individual ticket price, but offers such as “five for the price of four” should be avoided
  • it must be run as part of another event or entertainment and both the sale and draw of tickets must take place during the event

Private lottery

There are three kinds of private lotteries:

  • private society lotteries – open only to members of club or society
  • residents lotteries – open only to those living on the same premises
  • work lotteries open only to those working on the same premises

Among the rules for private lotteries, you must:

  • charge the same for each ticket
  • not roll over prizes
  • not advertise the lottery outside of the premises or club/society

Tickets can be printed but a sweepstake is also permissible.  Private lotteries must not be run for profit – all money must be split between prizes. The exception is for private society lotteries where the proceeds can be split between prizes and the club or society.

Society lotteries

A society lottery is where tickets are sold to the general public over a period of time. All society lotteries are subject to strict regulation and must be registered:

Small Society Lotteries  – up to £20,000 ticket sales: register with the licensing office at Bradford Council

Large Society Lotteries tickets sales will exceed £20,000 for a single lottery, or £250,000 in one calendar year: register with the Gambling Commission.

Other important rules about society lotteries include:

  • tickets should not be bought or sold by young people under 16

Gaming machines

Unless you are running a licensed premises (e.g. a bar), it is probably unlawful for you to install a gaming machine – contact the Gambling Commission for advice.

Gambling and ethics

Any kind of gambling may be considered unacceptable by members of your management committee or your wider community. It is essential to check with your committee and advisable to consider your wider community before planning a lottery.

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