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Guidance to licensing authorities

The Gambling Commission's guidance for licensing authorities.


9 - Application and registration process for small society lotteries

34.28. When licensing authorities are approached by societies who want to register with them to operate lotteries, they will need to refer to the Act’s definition of a small society lottery, which falls into two distinct areas:

  • society status – the society in question must be ‘non-commercial’
  • lottery size – the total value of tickets to be put on sale per single lottery must be £20,000 or less, or the aggregate value of tickets to be put on sale for all their lotteries in a calendar year must not exceed £250,000. If the operator plans to exceed either of these values, then they may need to be licensed with the Commission to operate large lotteries instead.

34.29. Additional information is available to assist licensing authorities with society lottery applications. This can be found within our Feature article: Small society lottery applications – things to consider. Please note this article does not form part of the Guidance to licensing authorities.

34.30. The Commission has published a series of advisory documents as well as a toolkit23 which licensing authorities may wish to refer applicants or potential applicants to, to enable them to establish which type of lottery they plan to operate. Promoting society and local authority lotteries advice note provides information for those seeking to run small and large society lotteries and local authority lotteries. Organising small lotteries provides advice on exempt lotteries that do not require a licence or registration. The Commission has also published Running a lottery, a quick guide for fundraisers, to help them identify what types of lottery they can run (the advice note, leaflet and quick guide do not form part of the Guidance to licensing authorities).

34.31. The promoting society of a small society lottery must, throughout the period during which the lottery is promoted, be registered with a licensing authority. Parts 4 and 5 of Schedule 11 of the Act set out the requirements on both societies and licensing authorities with respect to the registration of small society lotteries.

34.32. The licensing authority with which a small society lottery is required to register must be in the area where their principal office is located. If a licensing authority believes that a society’s principal office is situated in another area, it should inform the society and the other licensing authority as soon as possible.

34.33. Applications for small society lottery registrations must be in the form prescribed by the Secretary of State and be accompanied by both the required registration fee and all necessary documents required by the licensing authority to assess the application. Licensing authorities are encouraged to ask applicants for a copy of their terms and conditions and their constitution to establish that they are a non-commercial society. They may also choose to require applicants to provide a declaration, stating that they represent a bona fide non-commercial society.

34.34. The Commission has been made aware that some small society lotteries may be avoiding applying for a society lottery operating licence from the Commission by obtaining two or more registrations with the same or different licensing authorities. Asset out previously, the Act states that a society lottery is a large lottery if the arrangements for it are such that its proceeds may exceed £20,000 in a single lottery, or if the aggregate proceeds in a calendar year exceed £250,000.

34.35. In cases where a society has separate branches with different aims and objectives, it is acceptable for them to hold more than one licence or registration. However, in cases where a society holds more than one registration and the aims and objectives of those societies are the same, this may constitute a breach of the threshold limits for small society lotteries set out in Schedule 11 of the Act.

34.36. Licensing authorities are advised to carefully consider any application by a society who is applying for or already holds more than one registration, including through another society with the same purposes. If the aims and objectives are the same and therefore the threshold limits for small society lotteries are likely to be exceeded, the applicant should be advised to apply to the Commission for a society lottery operating licence.

34.37. By virtue of Schedule 11 paragraph 31(5), societies may not hold an operating licence and a local authority registration with the same aims and objectives at the same time. This paragraph also provides for a statutory period of three years during which a large society cannot convert to small society status. Licensing authorities should check that applicants for registration do not hold (and have not held in the preceding three years) a society lottery operating licence granted by the Commission.

34.38. Licensing authorities may also wish to check with the society at the time the annual fee is paid to renew the registration, to ensure that a society does not hold a duplicate registration with them or another licensing authority where the aims and objectives of the societies are the same. If that is the case and the combined proceeds exceed or are likely to exceed the threshold limits for small society lotteries, the society should be advised to apply to the Commission for a society lottery operating licence. The licensing authority should also notify the Commission.

34.39. Licensing authorities may delegate the registration of small societies to licensing officers, subject to each authority’s own specific process of delegations.

34.40. Licensing authorities are required by paragraph 44 of Schedule 11 of the Act to record details of the society on a register. While it does not have to be a public register, the Commission recommends that licensing authorities make the register available to the public on request.

34.41. Once the application for registration has been accepted and entered on the local register, the licensing authority must then notify both the applicant and the Commission of this registration as soon as practicable.

34.42. Registrations run for an unlimited period, unless the registration is cancelled. If a licensing authority cancels the registration of a society, due to non-payment of their annual fee, the licensing authority are required by paragraph 54 of Schedule 11 of the Act to notify the Commission and the formerly registered society.

If a licensing authority cancels the registration of a society, they are required by paragraph 53 of Schedule 11 of the Act to notify the Commission. An annual fee is payable to maintain the registration.

Refusal of an application

34.43. Paragraphs 47 and 48 of Schedule 11 of the Act set out the grounds for licensing authorities to refuse a small society lottery registration application. In summary, licensing authorities may propose to refuse an application for any of the following reasons:

  • An operating licence held by the applicant for registration has been revoked or an application for an operating licence made by the applicant for registration has been refused, within the past five years. The Commission will be able to advise the details of people and organisations that have been refused an operating licence or have had an operating licence revoked in the past five years. Licensing authorities should consult the Commission as part of their consideration process.
  • The society in question cannot be deemed non-commercial. Under previous regimes, licensing authorities often required applicants to provide a statement with their application form declaring that they represented a bona fide non-commercial society, and identifying how the purpose of the society could be established. The Commission considers that a similar approach remains appropriate. However, licensing authorities should also consider whether such a declaration is sufficient in the particular circumstances of each case or whether there are additional determining factors, such as an unusual or novel purpose of the society, which may suggest that further enquiry is needed.
  • A person who will or may be connected with the promotion of the lottery has been convicted of a relevant offence, listed in Schedule 7 of the Act. Under previous regimes, licensing authorities often required applicants to provide a statement alongside their application form declaring that they had no relevant convictions that would prevent them from running lotteries. The authority could then verify the accuracy of the statement with the police. The Commission considers that this approach remains appropriate.
  • Information provided in or with the application for registration is found to be false or misleading.

34.44. A licensing authority may only refuse an application for registration after the society has had the opportunity to make representations. These can be taken at a formal hearing or via correspondence. Licensing authorities should inform the society of the reasons why it is minded to refuse registration and provide it with at least an outline of the evidence on which it has reached that preliminary conclusion, in order to enable representations to be made.

34.45. Representations, and any objections that may result after such a decision, should be handled in accordance with local procedures, and in the same way that the licensing authority would deal with any other licensing matters. The Commission considers that, as a matter of good practice, licensing authorities should set out the principles they will apply in such circumstances. This could be in their statement of policy or on their website.

Revocation of a small society’s registered status

34.46. A licensing authority may determine to revoke the registration of a society if it thinks that they would have had to, or would be entitled to, refuse an application for registration if it were being made at that time. Revocations cannot take place unless the society has been given an opportunity to make representations at a hearing or via correspondence. In preparation for this, licensing authorities should inform the society of the reasons why it is minded to revoke the registration and provide them with the evidence on which it has reached that preliminary conclusion. Representations that may result after such a decision should be handled in accordance with local procedures.


34.47. Following the conclusion of any hearings and receipt of representations, paragraph 51 of Schedule 11 of the Act then requires the authority to notify the applicant or the society as soon as possible if their registration is still to be revoked,or if their application for registration has still been rejected.

34.48. The applicant or society may decide to make an appeal against the decision and has 21 days following receipt of the notice of the decision to lodge an appeal, which must be made directly to the local Magistrates’ court if in England or Wales, or the Sheriff court in Scotland. On appeal they may choose to affirm the decision of the licensing authority, reverse the decision, or make any other order.


23 Lotteries toolkit

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Specific offences in relation to lotteries
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