Institute of Fundraising: Be aware of the complicated laws surrounding lotteries

Lately, the Institute's phones have been buzzing with calls about how to prepare for, conduct and promote raffles and lotteries, so here's a quick reminder.

A few general rules apply. Lotteries can't be run for private gain, there must be equal opportunity between each chance and they must be run in accordance with the law. You must sell tickets at the sum they are priced at, so you can't offer discounts such as five for the price of four, and records must be kept of all tickets, sold and unsold.

You will need to identify that your activity is a lottery and which of the three categories it fits into: a small lottery run as part of an event or entertainment, a private lottery where tickets are sold to people living or working in the same premises or a society lottery run by a society or organisation.

If you are running a lottery as part of an event where tickets are bought and sold only within the time and place of that event, it is most likely a small lottery and can be promoted without the need for registration or a return being made to a regulating authority. The proviso is that no more than £250 can be used from the proceeds of the lottery on prizes, and cash prizes can't be awarded - but the value of donated prizes is unlimited.

You can sell as many private lottery tickets as you like at whatever price you choose, so long as it is only to people who live or work on the same premises or are members of an organisation whose primary purpose is not any form of betting or gaming. You can only advertise private lotteries at the premises of the organisation or on the tickets.

If you are running a society lottery, the most you can charge for a ticket is £2 - but you can sell tickets to the general public. If tickets sold in one lottery will raise more than £20,000 or if you are likely to sell more than £250,000 worth of tickets in a calendar year, you must register with either your local authority or the Gaming Board. The Gaming Board does not have jurisdiction in Northern Ireland.

The law relating to lotteries is complex, so if you are planning to run a raffle or a lottery, read the Institute's code of practice on raffles and lotteries and the Gaming Board publication Lotteries and the Law, available online at www.

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