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If you are planning to hold a raffle or a lottery find out whether you need permission and how you can apply.

What is a lottery?

It is essentially a game of chance, which people pay to take part in so as to win one or more prizes, all of which are allocated by chance. This means that duck races, film race nights, cloakroom tickets sold at private clubs, sweepstakes, raffles are all examples of lotteries.

The Gambling Commission has produced a quick guide about running a lottery (pdf, 161kb) (opens in a new window) and also has a frequently asked questions page.

How do I run a lottery legally?

A lottery needs to be either promoted by a registered charitable or philanthropic society or fall within one of the exempt lottery definitions. This means that none of the proceeds made from a lottery may be used for private gain.

Any society that wishes to hold a lottery, or lotteries, where ticket sales in any one year would be over £250,000, will need to register with the Gambling Commission (opens in a new window).

Lotteries where the amount raised through ticket sales per year is less than £250,000, will need to register with the Licensing Authority that covers the area of the society's main office or base. They are known as small society lotteries and are subject to certain rules and regulations (pdf, 66kb) (opens in a new window). Registrations may only be given to societies set up for non-commercial purposes such as sports, cultural or charitable purposes, and not where the sole purpose of the society is running a lottery.

To register a society an application form (pdf, 1Mb) (opens in a new window) will need to be completed and either emailed or posted to the relevant Licensing Authority. There is a fee of £40 for the initial registration and an annual fee of £20 thereafter. The fee can either be posted with an application or if the application has been emailed, paid by card over the phone. The contact details for each authority are at the bottom of the page.

A Small Society Lottery registration lasts indefinitely, unless the society notifies the Licensing Authority that the registration is no longer required, or it is cancelled due to non-payment of the annual fee. After each lottery or raffle the society must complete a return form (pdf, 228kb) (opens in a new window) and send it to the Licensing Authority where it is registered.

What types of lotteries are exempt from registration?

If your lottery does not fall within any of the exemptions below, it will need to be registered either with the Licensing Authority or the Gambling Commission.

Private society lotteries

This exemption allows any group or society (except those set up for gambling) to hold a lottery where the sales of tickets are limited to the members of that group or society.  Tickets cannot be sold and the lottery cannot be advertised to persons outside the group or society. The proceeds of the lottery must go to the purposes of the society and must not be used for private gain.

Work lotteries

These can only be run and played by colleagues at a particular place of work. This type of lottery cannot make a profit, and is unsuitable for fundraising.

Residents' lotteries

These are similar to work lotteries as they can only be run and played by people living at a particular address. Again this type of lottery cannot make a profit, and is unsuitable for fundraising.

Customer lotteries

A lottery that can only be run by a business, at its own premises and for its own customers. No prize can be more than £50 in value. This type of lottery cannot make a profit, and so is unsuitable for fundraising.

Incidental non-commercial lotteries

These are held at non-commercial events, such as school fetes etc. All ticket sales and the draw, must take place during the main event, which may last more than a single day. Prizes cannot total more than £500 and no more than £100 of the proceeds can be deducted for expenses, such as printing tickets or hiring equipment.

You can apply online - to North Dorset District Council only

North Dorset: Apply online

How to apply online to North Dorset District Council (pdf, 413kb) (opens in a new window)

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