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Guidance to licensing authorities

The Gambling Commission's guidance for licensing authorities.


7 - Non-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 pay-out 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 (opens in new tab) (SI 2016 No 239) and The Legislative Reform (Exempt Lotteries) Order 2016 (SI 2016 No124 (opens in new tab)). 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 (by non-remote means)21 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 of this guidance. At such an event, the person administering the betting must be a licensed bookmaker.

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