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Back To TopIntroduction

28.1 The Act permits gambling without any specific permissions under limited circumstances, namely:

  • non-commercial gaming
  • private gaming and betting
  • incidental lotteries
  • private society lotteries
  • work lotteries
  • residents’ lotteries
  • customer lotteries.

Children and young persons are permitted to participate in all of the above, except for customer lotteries where children are not permitted to participate (S.46 and s.48 of the Act).

28.2 With regard to exempt lotteries, this part addresses incidental lotteries only. Further information about exempt lotteries in general is available in Organising small lotteries: Advice on lotteries that do not require a licence or registration.

Back To TopNon-commercial gaming

28.3 The Act permits non-commercial gaming if it takes place at a non-commercial event, either as an incidental or principal activity at the event. Events are non-commercial if no part of the proceeds is for private profit or gain. The proceeds of such events may benefit one or more individuals if the activity is organised:

  • by, or on behalf of, a charity or for charitable purposes
  • to enable participation in, or support of, sporting, athletic or cultural activities.

28.4 So it would be possible to raise funds providing the proceeds were, for example, to support a local hospital appeal or a charitable sporting endeavour. Additionally, events such as race nights or casino nights may be permitted if they comply with the regulations and profits go to a good cause.

28.5 S.297(3) of the Act defines proceeds of an event as:

  1. the sums raised by the organisers, whether by way of fees for entrance or for participation, sponsorship, commission from traders, or otherwise
    minus
  2. amounts deducted by the organisers in respect of costs reasonably incurred in organising the event.

However, sums raised by other persons will not form part of the proceeds of the event and may be appropriated for private gain. An example would be refreshments provided at the event by an independent third party.

28.6 If someone uses any profits from non-commercial gaming for something other than the specified purpose, then they commit an offence under s.301 of the Act, which can result in a fine or imprisonment.

28.7 The Act identifies two types of permissible non-commercial gaming:

  • prize gaming which must comply with the conditions set out in s.299 of the Act
  • equal chance gaming which must comply with the conditions set out in s.300 of the Act and the conditions prescribed in regulations.

Non-commercial prize gaming

28.8 An organiser does not need to have an operating or premises licence nor a prize gaming permit, provided that the conditions in s.299 are met, namely:

  • players are told that the purpose of the gaming is to raise money for a specified charitable, sporting, athletic or cultural purpose
  • profits are not for private gain
  • the event cannot take place in a venue (other than a track) which has a premises licence. If at a track, the premises licence cannot be in use (in effect no betting can be taking place) and no temporary use notice can have effect
  • the gaming must be on the premises and not be remote gaming.

28.9 In these circumstances, prize gaming occurs if the nature and size of the prize is not determined by the number of people playing or the amount paid for or raised by the gaming. Normally the prizes will be determined by the operator before play commences.

Non-commercial equal chance gaming

28.10 The conditions set out under s.300 are as follows:

  • All players must be told what purpose the money raised from the gaming is going to be used for - which must be something other than private gain - and the profits must be applied for that purpose.
  • The gaming must also comply with regulations (SI No 2041/2007: The Gambling Act 2005 (Non-Commercial Equal Chance Gaming) Regulations 2007):
    • limiting the maximum payment each player can be required to make to participate in all games at an event to £8
    • limiting the aggregate amount or value of prizes in all games played at an event to £600, although where an event is the final one of a series in which all of the players have previously taken part, a higher prize fund of up to £900 is permitted
  • The non-commercial event cannot take place on premises (other than a track) which hold a premises licence, nor on a track at a time when activities are being carried on in reliance on a premises licence, nor on premises at a time when activities are being carried on in reliance on a temporary use notice. There is nothing to stop such premises running charitable or other gambling events to raise money for good causes, but they should do so using the gambling permissions granted to them by their premises licence or use notice. The one exception to this is that a non-commercial event can take place at a track, provided no licensed gambling activities are taking place at the same time. This enables a track to be used for non-commercial gambling when races are not taking place
  • The gaming must be non-remote gaming. In other words, the authorisation can only apply to gaming which takes place at events, on premises, and for gaming in person.

Back To TopPrivate gaming

28.11 Private gaming can take place anywhere to which the public do not have access, for example, a workplace. Domestic and residential gaming are two subsets where non-equal chance gaming is allowed.

  • Domestic gaming is permitted without the need for permissions if:
    • it takes place in a private dwelling
    • it is on a domestic occasion
    • no charge or levy is made for playing.
  • Residential gaming is permitted when:
    • it takes place in a hall of residence or hostel not administered in the course of a trade or business
    • more than 50% of the participants are residents.

28.12 Private gaming can potentially take place on commercial premises in circumstances where a members’ club hires a room in, for example, a pub or hotel for a private function where equal chance gaming only is played. However, organisers would need to scrutinise very carefully the arrangements put in place to make sure that the particular area of the pub, hotel or other venue in which the gaming takes place is not, on the occasion of the private function, a place to which the public have access and that those participating are not selected by a process which means that, in fact, they are members of the public rather than members of the club. The law in this area is complex and organisers should be advised to seek their own legal advice before organising events of this nature.

28.13 It is a condition of private gaming that no charge (by whatever name called) is made for participation and Schedule 15 to the Act makes it clear that a deduction from or levy on sums staked or won by participants in gaming is a charge for participation in the gaming. It is irrelevant whether the charge is expressed to be voluntary or compulsory, particularly if customers are prevented from playing if they do not make the ‘voluntary’ donation, or there is strong peer pressure to make the donation. A relevant decided case in another licensing field is that of Cocks v Mayner (1893)58 JP 104, in which it was found that an omnibus, said to be available free of charge but whose passengers were invited to make a voluntary contribution, was ‘plying for hire’ without the appropriate licence.

28.14 Additionally, the decided cases of Panama (Piccadilly) Ltd v Newberry (1962) 1WLR 610 and Lunn v Colston-Hayter (1991) 155 JP 384 are helpful in guiding licensing authorities in deciding whether a person ceases to be a member of the public merely because they have agreed to become a member of a club.

28.15 In the first of these cases, which related to a strip show, the Court said that an applicant for membership of the club and admission to the show was and remained a member of the public, as the whole purpose of membership was to get members of the public to see the show and there was no sufficient segregation or selection to cause an applicant to cease to be a member of the public and to acquire a different status as a member of a club on signing his application form and paying the charge. In the second case, which related to an acid house party, the judge said that it was impossible, merely because of the existence of a formal scheme of club membership enforced to the extent of requiring tickets to be obtained 24-hours in advance of the event, to regard those who obtained such membership and tickets as having ceased to be members of the public.

28.16 This means that people joining a club to attend and take part in a private event are likely to remain members of the public, particularly if club membership is acquired only a short time before, in order to attend the event. The courts will not readily allow membership status to be abused in order to circumvent the law in this way.

Back To TopPrivate betting

28.17 The Act also says that betting is private if it is domestic betting or workers’ betting. Domestic betting is a betting transaction made on premises in which each party to the transaction habitually resides. Workers’ betting is where a betting transaction is made between persons who are employed by the same employer. A person does not commit an offence under s.33 or s.37 of the Act if he or she provides facilities for private betting.

Back To TopIncidental lotteries

28.18 An incidental lottery is a lottery that is incidental to an event. The lottery must be promoted wholly for a purpose other than that of private gain, that is, the lottery can only be promoted for a charity or other good cause. Examples may include a lottery held at a school fete or at a social event such as a dinner dance. 

Back To TopNon-commercial ‘casino night’

28.19 A non-commercial casino night is an event where participants stake money on casino-style games, such as poker or roulette, at a non-commercial event, where none of the money the organisers raise from the event is used for private gain.

28.20 Apart from reasonable costs, proceeds (including any entrance fees, sponsorship, the difference between stakes placed and payout made):

  • must not be used for private gain
  • must all be given to a good cause.

Reasonable costs would include costs incurred by providing the prizes. If third parties are selling goods or services at the event, this does not count as money raised for the charity or good cause and can be retained by that third party.

28.21 A non-commercial casino night can be run without a licence, or any other form of permission, providing the operation of the gaming falls into one of the three categories discussed below.

28.22 Organisers should note that, under the Act, it is illegal to organise a commercial casino night outside of a licensed casino. However an application can be made for a temporary use notice (TUN) in respect of other premises to offer gaming on a commercial basis, so far as the appropriate operating licence covers the proposed activities in the application, but then only in respect of equal chance gaming organised on a tournament basis with a single overall winner (SI No 3157/2007: The Gambling Act 2005 (Temporary Use Notices) Regulations 2007). There can, however, be more than one competition with a single winner held at the individual event covered by a specific TUN.

Casino night as non-commercial prize gaming

28.23 Casino nights can be held as non-commercial prize gaming. The players must be told what good cause will benefit from the profits of the gaming before placing a bet. The prizes must be advertised in advance and must not depend on the number of people playing or the stakes raised. In non-commercial prize gaming, the casino gaming determines the individual winner or winners, for example by counting who has the most casino chips at a set time. The winners are then awarded the prizes that have been advertised in advance.

Casino night as non-commercial equal chance gaming

28.24 Casino nights can also be run as non-commercial equal chance gaming, where the chances are equally favourable to all participants and players are not competing against a bank. In non-commercial equal chance gaming, the charitable funds are usually raised through an entrance fee, participation fee, or through other payments related to the gaming. The maximum amount that a player may be charged is £8 per day which includes entrance or participation fees, stakes and any other payments in relation to the gaming. Organisers must ensure that the total amount paid out in prizes remains below £600 in total across all players. However, where an event is the final one of a series in which all of the players have previously taken part, a higher prize fund of up to £900 is allowed.

Casino night as private gaming

28.25 A casino night may also be run under the private gaming provisions in the Act. Private gaming may only occur in a place to which the public does not have access, normally a private dwelling, hostel, hall of residence or similar establishment. No charge may be made for participation in private gaming including an entrance fee or other charge for admission, nor may any amounts be deducted from stakes or prizes. No profits can be made from private gaming, irrespective of how the organiser intended to use those profits and, thus, even if intended for charitable purposes.

28.26 Private gaming is restricted to equal chance gaming except where it is domestic or residential gaming.

28.27 Private gaming can potentially take place on commercial premises in circumstances where a members’ club hires a room in, for example, a pub or hotel for a private function where equal chance gaming only is played. However, organisers would need to scrutinise very carefully the arrangements put in place, as detailed at paragraph 28.11 above.

Back To TopNon-commercial race night

28.28  Race nights are permitted for charitable purposes but, in some circumstances, can only be undertaken by a licensed betting operator and after appropriate notification to the licensing authority. Further details are set out at paragraph 28.36 below.

28.29 A non-commercial race night is an event where participants stake money on the outcome of live, recorded or virtual races.

28.30 Apart from reasonable costs, proceeds which includes any entrance fees, sponsorship, and the difference between stakes placed and payout made:

  • must not be used for private gain
  • must all be given to a good cause.

Reasonable costs would include costs reasonably incurred, for example by providing any prizes and for betting slips. If third parties are selling goods or services this does not count as money raised for the charity or good cause and can be retained by that third party.

Race night as non-commercial gaming

28.31 A non-commercial type of race night occurs where the selection of a ‘horse’ by a participant is totally dependent on chance, and where no ‘odds’ or ‘form’ are available to assist the gambler’s selection. An example would be the use of archive films of horseracing without revealing the details of each race.

28.32 Such nights can be run without a licence, or any other form of permission, providing the operation of the gaming falls into one of the three categories discussed below.

Incidental lottery

28.33 It is possible to operate a race night as an incidental lottery (incidental lotteries must comply with conditions set out in Schedule 11 of the Act, The Gambling Act 2005 (Incidental Lotteries) Regulations 2016 (SI 2016 No 239) and The Legislative Reform (Exempt Lotteries) Order 2016 (SI 2016 No124)). An incidental lottery is a lottery that is incidental to an event. The lottery must be promoted wholly for a purpose other than that of private gain, that is, the lottery can only be promoted for a charity or other good cause. The event may last more than a single day.

28.34 There are no limits on the amount that players may be charged to participate in an incidental lottery, but no more than £500 may be deducted from the proceeds of the lottery for the cost of prizes, which may be in cash or kind. Other prizes may be donated to the lottery and there is no maximum limit on the value of donated prizes. No more than £100 may be deducted from the proceeds in respect of the expenses incurred in organising the lottery, such as the cost of printing tickets, hire of equipment etc.

28.35 The organisers can only sell tickets at the location and during the event. The results of the lottery can be drawn at the event or after it has finished. It is recommended that the organisers of the lottery make it clear to participants when the result of the lottery will be decided. The lottery cannot involve a rollover of prizes from one lottery to another.

28.36 An example of a race night run as an incidental lottery is where a ‘horse’ is picked at random for each paying customer, who is then awarded a prize if the horse ‘wins’ the race.

Non-commercial prize gaming

28.37 Race nights can be held as non-commercial prize gaming. The players must be told what good cause will benefit from the profits of the gaming. The prizes must be advertised in advance and must not depend on the number of people playing or the stakes raised. In non-commercial prize gaming, the ‘race’ determines the individual winner or winners, for example, those who have paid are allocated or select a named horse in the race. The winners are then awarded the prizes that had been advertised in advance.

Non-commercial equal chance gaming

28.38 Race nights can also be run as non-commercial equal chance gaming, where the chances are equally favourable to all participants and players are not competing against a bank.

28.39 The maximum amount that a player may be charged is £8 per day which includes entrance or participation fees, betting stakes and any other payments in relation to the gaming. Organisers must ensure that the total amount paid out in prizes remains below £600 in total across all players. However, where an event is the final one of a series in which all of the players have previously taken part, a higher prize fund of up to £900 is allowed. This could take place, for example, where each participant pays a fee for a randomly selected ‘horse’ in each ‘race’ and the participant with the winning horse or chooser of the winning horse receives a prize commensurate with the stakes placed.

Race night as private gaming

28.40 A non-commercial race night may also be run under the private gaming provisions in the Act. Private gaming may only occur in a place to which the public does not have access, such as a private dwelling, hostel, hall of residence or similar establishment. No charge may be made for participation in private gaming including an entrance fee or other charge for admission, nor may any amounts be deducted from stakes or prizes. Thus, no profits can be made from private gaming, irrespective of how the organiser intended to use those profits, and not even for charitable purposes.

Race night as a betting event

28.41 A fundraising race night can be run as a betting event at a track where there is a track premises licence in place. Where there is no track premises licence in place for the track, the organiser of such an event will need to give notice under the occasional use notice (OUN) procedure. Licensing authorities are reminded that a track is defined by s.353 of the Act as a horse racecourse, greyhound track or other premises on any part of which a race or other sporting event takes places, such as a football ground, golf course or an athletics stadium. The person responsible for the administration of events on the track must serve notice on the licensing authority and copy it to the chief officer of police for the area. Further details on the procedure for OUNs can be found in Part 15. At such an event, the person administering the betting must be a licensed bookmaker.