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How to run a lottery or fundraiser

Check if you need a licence to run a lottery or fundraiser and make sure you are fundraising legally.

Published: 23 September 2020

Last updated: 12 July 2022

This version was printed or saved on: 29 May 2024

Online version: https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/public-and-players/guide/how-to-run-a-lottery-or-fundraiser

Overview: Lotteries, raffles and some competitions are forms of gambling so before you start organising, you should check if your fundraiser is classed as a lottery.

You'll also need to check if you need permission before you start selling tickets.

Activities that require a licence

You need a licence or registration to run an online lottery

This includes lotteries on social media and live-streaming platforms. You might want to consider other fundraising options if you don't want to register with your local authority or apply for a licence from us.

You also need a licence from us if you do any of the following:

When you need to register with your local authority

If you do any of the following you don't need a licence from us, but you'll need a registration from your local authority:

When don't I need a licence?

You don’t need a licence or registration to run a lottery if you only take ticket payments face to face and do any of the following:

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

Promoting lotteries

Lotteries in Great Britain can only be promoted for charities and other good causes. They cannot be promoted for private or commercial gain.

The rules around promoting a lottery depend on which country you are in. Before you begin to promote your lottery, make sure you are aware of the correct rules.

Promoting lotteries in Great Britain

Great Britain is England, Scotland and Wales.

Although lotteries in Great Britain can only be promoted by charities, good causes and local authorities, there are some exemptions. These exemptions apply to some lotteries run by private clubs, resident lotteries and workplace lotteries, or for fundraising at commercial or charity events. 

Promoting multiple society lotteries

You can read our advice on promoting multiple society lotteries, which includes our advice about some of the factors we consider when making decisions about whether the requirements of the Gambling Act 2005 (opens in a new tab) are met in a particular lottery scheme.

It contains advice on relevant regulations and the licence conditions and codes of practice (LCCP). 

It also gives more information on what is part of a branded lottery scheme, and what operators are required to do when promoting lotteries through these schemes.

Society lotteries and external lottery managers

Society lotteries and external lottery managers (ELMs) that want to promote individual society lotteries under one brand must ensure that those lotteries are not combined to form one single lottery. This could be a breach of the requirements of the Gambling Act 2005.

They must also ensure that customers are provided with enough information so that they can make an informed decision as to whether they want to support the good cause or not.

It must be clear to customers that although there may be a common brand, they are participating in individual society lotteries and be informed of which lottery they are taking part in.

Information about the promoting society lottery should be available in any marketing or advertising material.

Promoting lotteries in countries outside of Great Britain

Offering lottery, gaming and betting products under common branding

Read our advice on offering lottery, gaming and betting products under common branding which includes information about the rules we use when licensing and regulating those who want to combine promoting a lottery with providing facilities for other types of gambling.

How to run a small society lottery

You don't need a licence from us to run a small society lottery, but you must register your lottery with your local licensing authority.

Register your small society lottery

You must register your lottery with your local licensing authority (usually your local council). You can find your local council on GOV.UK (opens in new tab).

How much does it cost?

Normally you'll need to complete an application form and pay a registration fee of £40 to your local council.

You’ll need to pay a £20 renewal fee after the first year.

Who can I sell tickets to?

You can sell tickets to people aged 16 and over.

Ticket requirements

Your tickets must show:

Can I claim my costs?

You can claim costs for prizes and expenses up to the value of 80% of ticket sales.

If someone else is running your lottery

Your society can employ an ELM to run all or part of your lottery. However, if you employ an ELM they must apply for an operating licence.

Rules for small society lotteries

There are rules around small society lotteries that you must follow. These are as follows:

How to run a fundraiser with lotteries or raffles at events

Lotteries at events do not require a licence from us because they are classed as incidental lotteries. This includes tombolas, raffles and sweepstakes.

How to run an incidental lottery

You don't need a licence from us to run an incidental lottery, but you must make sure you follow the rules to run an incidental non-commercial lottery legally.

You can only run an incidental lottery to raise money for charity, not for private gain.

Types of events

Lotteries or raffles can be held at events such as:

The lottery can’t be the main reason for holding the event. It must take place alongside a commercial or non-commercial one-off event.

Who can I sell tickets to?

You can sell tickets to anyone at the event.

Ticket requirements

You must provide physical tickets to those taking part. There are no set requirements for what must be printed on the tickets, as long as you can identify which ones are the winning tickets. For example, you can use cloakroom tickets.

There is no limit on how much you can charge for a ticket, and you can apply discount tickets for multiple purchases, such as buy one get one free.

You can sell tickets for an incidental lottery to children.

Tickets can only be sold at the location of the event and whilst the event is taking place. You can’t sell tickets online (which includes social media) or in advance of the event. 

Can I claim my costs?

You can take up to a maximum of £100 from your proceeds to cover expenses to run the lottery. For example, costs for printing tickets or hiring equipment.

Prizes

You can take up to a maximum of £500 from proceeds to pay for prizes. Prizes can also be donated, there isn’t a limit on how much donated prizes can cost.

Prizes can't rollover from one lottery to another.

Announcing the result

You can either do the lottery draw during or after the event. We recommend that you make it clear to participants when you'll be announcing the result.

How to run a lottery for your customers

You can run a lottery for your customers if the lottery will take place at your businesses’ physical location or premises. This is known as a customer lottery.

You cannot make a profit from a customer lottery and you also cannot use them for fundraising. All the money you raise must either be used to pay for prizes, or used to cover costs of running the lottery.

How to run a customer lottery

You must be the occupier of a business premises to run this type of lottery.

Who can I sell tickets to?

You can sell tickets to customers aged 16 and over.

Ticket requirements

You must provide physical tickets to the people playing.

Your tickets must show:

You can only sell physical tickets to customers when they're on your premises for business purposes. You can’t sell tickets online.

Where can the draw be advertised?

Adverts for the lottery cannot be posted online or sent by text message or email. You can only advertise the draw on a single set of business premises, and cannot be sent to any other premises.

Where can the draw take place?

You can only run a customer lottery from a single set of physical business premises and the draw must take place on these premises. It can’t be done online.

In England, you can’t run a customer lottery if your business needs a gambling premises licence. For example, if you run an arcade or bingo hall. In Scotland, you can run your customer lottery without a licence if your business needs a gambling premises licence.

Can I claim my costs?

You can claim money for prizes and reasonable running costs using the money you raise.

Prizes

Physical prizes must be under £50 in value. Your business could also choose to offer a service as a prize.

For example, a hairdressers could offer a free makeover which is worth £50. However, it might only cost the business £30 in materials. The hairdressers could use £30 from the proceeds to cover their costs and use the remaining £20 to buy other prizes.

You can’t hold a customer lottery on a vessel

For example, you can’t hold a customer lottery on a ship or a boat. This is because of restrictions in the Gambling Act 2005.

What's classed as 'vessel'?
The Gambling Act 2005 defines a vessel as:
  • anything (other than a seaplane or amphibious vehicle), designed or adapted for navigation or other use in, on or over water
  • a hovercraft
  • anything, or any part of any place, situated on or in water.

How to run a lottery with people you work with

You can run a lottery, raffle, tombola or sweepstake with people you work with without a licence. This is known as a work lottery.

You can use this type of lottery to either raise money for good causes, or just for fun.

You can’t make a profit from a work lottery. Proceeds must either be used for reasonable expenses and prizes, or donated to charity.

How to run a work lottery

Everyone who is taking part in a work lottery must all work at the same physical location, such as an office, factory or other place of work. You cannot run a work lottery across multiple sites.

Example

You could run an office sweepstake for the Grand National without a licence. However, you cannot run a work lottery between a chain of offices, across different locations.

Who can I sell tickets to?

You can sell tickets to anyone who works at your location.

Ticket requirements

You can’t sell tickets online, via email or over the telephone. You must provide physical tickets to the people playing and there are no specific requirements for what needs to be printed on the tickets.  

You must make sure that:

Where can the draw take place?

You can only do the draw on your businesses' physical premises. It can’t be done online.

Can I claim my costs?

Yes, you can claim money for prizes and reasonable running costs using the money you raise.

Prizes

Prizes can’t rollover to another lottery.

How to run a lottery with people you live with

You can run a lottery, raffle, tombola or sweepstake with people you live with without a licence. This is known as a residents' lottery.

You can use this type of lottery to raise money for good causes or just for fun, however, you cannot make a profit. If the lottery is not to raise money for a good cause, any proceeds have to be used for prizes and for some reasonable expenses.

You can’t make a profit from a residents’ lottery Proceeds must either be used for reasonable expenses and prizes, or donated to charity.

How to run a residents' lottery

Everyone taking part must live at the same single physical location. For example, the same house, apartment block, residential care home or halls of residence.

You can’t run a residents’ lottery across multiple sites.

Example

You can't run a residents' lottery between a chain of residential care homes across different locations. However, you could hold the lottery at one of the care homes.

Who can I sell tickets to?

You can sell tickets to anyone who lives at that location.

Ticket requirements

You must provide physical tickets to the people playing. However, there are no specific requirements for what needs to be printed on the tickets.

You must make sure that:

You can only sell physical tickets to colleagues when you are all at the residence. You can’t sell tickets online, via email or over the telephone. 

Where can the draw take place?

You can only do the draw where you all live, for example at your house. It can’t be done online.

Can I claim my costs?

Yes, you can claim money for prizes and reasonable running costs using the money you raise.

Prizes

Prizes can’t rollover to another lottery.

How to run a lottery with people you’re in a club with

You can run a lottery, raffle, tombola or sweepstake with people you’re in a club without a licence. This is known as a private society lottery.

How to run a private society lottery

You must be a member of the society and have permission in order to run this type of lottery.

Those taking part must be members of the society or guests who visit the society premises.

A private society can be:

You can raise money with a private society lottery

A private lottery can be used to raise money for your club, group or organisation, as long as the money is spent on a relevant cause.

Example

A tennis club could run a lottery to raise money for new equipment.

You can also use a private society lottery as a fundraiser for charity or other good causes.

Example

A private members club could run a lottery to raise money to buy kit for a local football club.

Who can I sell tickets to?

You can sell tickets to members of your private society and to people who aren't members of your society. However, non-members can only buy tickets on your society's physical premises, for example, at a club house.

Ticket requirements

You must provide physical tickets to the people playing. However, there are no specific requirements for what needs to be printed on the tickets.

You must make sure that:

Where can the draw take place?

You can only do the draw at your private society’s physical location. It can’t be done online.

Can I claim my costs?

Yes, you can claim money for prizes and reasonable running costs using the money you raise.

Prizes

Prizes can’t rollover to another lottery.