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Facebook lotteries: A bit of fun or a potential risk?

Posted 25 May 2021 by Communications


You may have seen lotteries or raffles being promoted on social media such as Facebook, but this doesn’t mean that they are being ran legally. Be careful to check you are not running or participating in an illegal lottery.

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The Gambling Act 2005 defines a lottery as a game of chance where the player pays to enter for a prize. This includes raffles and tombolas, making them a form of gambling too.

Lotteries cannot be run for private or commercial gain and most can only be run for good causes. These include charities, hospices, air-ambulance services, sporting or cultural clubs or other not-for-profit causes.

It is illegal to offer a lottery without the correct licence or legal permission, even where it is intended to raise funds for a good cause.

The number of reports the Gambling Commission has received about social media lotteries has been on the rise in recent years. Unfortunately, many of the lotteries we see promoted on Facebook are illegal and pose a serious risk to the consumer. This is because participants of such lotteries do not benefit from consumer and gambling protection rules in Great Britain as these lotteries are not licensed by us.

If you are considering running a lottery on Facebook, make sure it is lawful.

You need a licence to run an online lottery. Online lotteries include lotteries on social media, auction or selling sites, fundraising platforms and live streaming platforms.

If you intend to run lotteries or raffles that will have ticket sales of more than £20,000 each month, or £250,000 in a calendar year, you’ll need to apply for a licence from us. If your lottery or raffle is smaller than this, you can register with your local authority.

Make sure you understand the requirements before you start to run a lottery. It is a criminal offence to run an illegal lottery and you could face prosecution. You may want to consider other types of fundraising if you don’t want to apply for a Gambling Commission licence.

Find out more about legal requirements for lotteries on social media.

You should stop offering or advertising the lottery immediately if you don’t have the correct licence.

All money paid by those who have entered the lottery must be returned to them. You should not offer any more competitions until you have taken advice and you are sure that the lottery or raffle you are offering is legal.

There are ways in which competitions can be run which do not amount to a lottery.

Free draws and prize competitions can be run for commercial or private gain and can be used when promoting a product or raffling a high value item such as a car. You can read more about free draws and prize competitions.

There are certain things to look out for before taking part in a Facebook lottery

There are signs that you can look out for which you should consider before you take part in a lottery on Facebook to help you understand whether they are lawful.

We advise you always check that the organisation running the lottery is either licensed by the Gambling Commission or registered with a local authority. You can check if an organisation is licensed by us to run an online lottery by searching for them on our public register.

If the lottery is claiming to be raising funds for a well-known charity, contact the charity before you enter the draw to see if it is legitimate. You should not receive an email about a genuine lottery from a personal email address. 

You should also check that the Facebook Page running the lottery is verified. Pages that have been verified by Facebook will display a blue check mark. This means that Facebook have confirmed the Page is authentic.

Signs that a lottery may be a scam.

There are signs you can look out for to help you avoid illegal lotteries on Facebook.

Look at how they are asking for payment. For example, if you are being asked to send payment via PayPal to an individual, or to an individual’s bank details, this is likely to be a fraudulent lottery.

Under advertising codes, phrases such as ‘winning will change your life’ are prohibited as they advertise gambling as a solution to financial difficulties. If you see phrases like this, you should avoid taking part in the lottery.

You should also be aware of lotteries that ask you to send cash overseas, phone an international number or premium rate number.

You can read more about how to spot scams in this guide.

As the regulator for gambling in Great Britain, we have powers to investigate and prosecute individuals who we believe are breaking the law.

It is a criminal offence to provide unlicensed lotteries without the correct permissions or exemptions in place. We monitor the boundary between lotteries, competitions and free draws to make sure that people who organise lotteries are properly licensed.

We take every report of illegal lotteries and raffles seriously so that we can assess illegal gambling activity being offered to consumers in Great Britain, and we write out to promoters of illegal lotteries to advise that activity is illegal.

Where we decide to intervene, we will consider working with third parties, including website providers, social media businesses and payment providers to take down illegal activity.

We will not hesitate to take firm action against offenders, and we have the power to take action where the law is being broken. In the most serious cases we can also consider prosecuting the promoters of illegal raffles or lotteries.

If you have any concerns about a suspicious lottery on Facebook, you can contact us

If you think the lottery is illegal and should be running under a licence or a local authority registration, you can report this to us through our confidential reporting page or the local authority responsible for the area it is operating from.

If you think a lottery is a scam, you need to report this to ActionFraud (opens in a new tab).

Further information:

You can read our guide on How to run a lottery or fundraiser

Find out more about the types of lottery you can run without a licence.

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