Lotteries and raffles

Lotteries and raffles are strictly regulated by law, and must be run in accordance with the Gambling Act 2005.

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Small society lotteries

If you run a lottery to raise funds for a non-commercial society you need to register as a ‘small society lottery' with the Licensing Unit. A non-commercial society is one run for sporting, charitable or benevolent purposes, such as a sports club, church or school.

Lotteries where the value of tickets on sale exceeds £20,000 or the combined funds raised in a year exceeds £250,000 will need to register with the Gambling Commission.

To register as a small society lottery you will need to complete and return the form below. There is an initial registration fee of £40 for the first year, with a fee of £20 per year thereafter.

Conditions of a small society lottery

The legislation requires that the lottery organiser must complete and submit a return statement no later than three months, beginning on the day on which the draw (or last draw) in the lottery took place.

As participation of a lottery is considered a form of gambling, it is an offence for children under the age of 16 to be involved in the selling or buying of lottery tickets. Small society lotteries are not exempt from this, even when they are run by schools or other community organisations. A local authority can investigate and take legal action if they suspect that a society is not conducting their lotteries in accordance with the Gambling Act 2005 and penalties can include imprisonment or a fine, or both.

For further information regarding organising a small society lottery please contact the Licensing Unit, or refer to the guidance below:

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Exempt lotteries

Some lotteries and raffles do not need to be registered with either the Gambling Commission or local authority. Examples include:

  • incidental non-commercial lotteries - such as those held at a charity dinner, festival or fete
  • private society lotteries - where only members of the society and those on the society premises can participate
  • work lotteries - only people who work together on the same premises may participate
  • residents' lotteries - only people who live at the same premises may participate
  • customer lotteries - only customers at the business premises may participate

For further information regarding exempt lotteries and the conditions which must be adhered to please see:

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Prize competitions and free draws

According to the Gambling Act 2005, prize competitions can be distinguished from lotteries because winning depends at least in part on the exercise of skill, judgement or knowledge by the participants. Free draws are not considered to be lotteries because you do not need to pay to enter.

Both are therefore free from statutory control and can be organised commercially for private benefit and profit. The Gambling Commission has issued guidance to help organisers ensure their legality:

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Page last updated: 03 July 2023

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