Abigail Sinden
Associate Solicitor
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Date Published:15 Feb 2021 Last Updated:22 Oct 2021

Do I need a licence to run a prize competition?

Business Services

Lotteries, raffles, competitions, prize draws – they are all the same aren’t they? Not quite! The way in which lotteries, raffles, competitions and prize draws operate is very different and therefore each has different legal requirements. Online prize competitions have grown in popularity over the last few years and the number of prize competition sites is on the increase. However, promoters of such competitions need to tread carefully and run their competitions in such a way so as not to be considered an illegal lottery whereby participants would actually be gambling.

Is my raffle or prize competition site really gambling and do I need a licence?

The Gambling Act 2005 regulates “gambling” which is defined as “gaming”, “betting” or “participating in a lottery”. These activities involve payment and the allocation of a prize wholly reliant on chance. Lotteries cannot be run for commercial gain and most can only be run for good causes such as charities, sporting or cultural clubs or other not-for-profit causes – all of which heavily rely on income from lotteries to support their work.

If your prize competition site falls outside the scope of gaming, betting or a lottery, you will not require a gambling licence. However, bear in mind that it is a criminal offence to run these activities without a licence, so it is vital that your raffle or prize competition site is run in a way which complies with the Gambling Commission’s requirements. The Gambling Commission licenses and regulates how people and businesses provide gambling in Great Britain.

How do I run my raffle or prize competition lawfully without requiring a licence?

There are two main ways to run your prize competition site lawfully. The first is to offer a free alternative route of entry, such as a postal route. The second way is to incorporate an element of skill, knowledge or judgment into the competition so as to prevent a significant proportion of the public from winning the prize and participating in the competition. Whilst this may sound simple, the laws surrounding free entry and the skill based element are quite complex and you should seek legal advice before promoting the competition.

What skill, knowledge or judgment do I need to include in my raffle or prize competition?

How you incorporate the skill, knowledge or judgment element is ultimately up to you, but it must prevent a significant proportion of the public from winning a prize and participating in the competition. Some prize competitions ask participants to answer questions; others request entrants to complete a ‘spot the difference’ exercise for example. Whilst it may be fairly easy to add these questions or games to your prize competition website, the rules and laws surrounding the skill, knowledge or judgment element in the Gambling Act 2005 and the “significant proportion” requirement are difficult to navigate and you should obtain legal advice. If your question or “spot the difference” exercise or other such games are considered too easy, your prize competition site could be unlawful.

Can I advertise my raffle or prize competition site on Facebook and Instagram?

Facebook and Instagram have strict requirements when it comes to advertising prize competitions. Promoters must obtain Facebook’s permission to advertise their prize sites which is requested by completing a “real money gaming” (RMG) questionnaire. For prize competitions, Facebook requires a legal opinion from legal counsel (i.e. solicitor) that the prize competition is being run lawfully without the need of a gambling licence.

How do I legally raffle my house or car?   

You can only raffle your house or car where the beneficiary (that is, the recipient of all lottery profits after expenses and prize costs are deducted) is a good cause and the organiser/promoter of the lottery is a non-commercial society such as a charity.

The only way in which you may raffle your house or car legally would be via a free draw or prize competition. If you are organising a prize competition or free draw,  it is your responsibility to make sure that you are compliant with the law so as to avoid being an illegal lottery. If in doubt, you should seek legal advice and that’s where we can help.

Are there any other legal aspects to consider when running a raffle or prize competition site?

It is important to note that we only advise promoters of raffles and prize competitions in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales), therefore the legal requirements outside Great Britain may well be different.

When running a raffle or prize competition, as well as the legal requirements of the Gambling Act 2005 and the Gambling Commission, you will also have to consider data protection and your terms and conditions of entry. There are also strict rules surrounding how you advertise your site which must comply with the Advertising Standards Authority’s guidelines.

How can Ellis Jones help me with my prize competition?

We can give your prize competition site a health check to make sure it complies with the requirements of the Gambling Act 2005 and the Gambling Commission. We will also make sure that your website is compliant with the Advertising Standards Authority’s guidance. We can also assist by drafting your terms and conditions of entry and your website’s privacy policy. Finally, we can provide you with a legal opinion as required by Facebook or Instagram in order to advertise your prize competition site on the platform.

The good news is, we can advise you on your prize competition site for a fixed fee. Please contact Abi Sinden at abi.sinden@ellisjones.co.uk to discuss your prize competition requirements.

Our regulatory team may also be able to assist you with applying for a gambling licence should you require one

If you have been treated unfairly by a gambling company then our specialist betting, gambling and gaming dispute solicitors can help.