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Types of lotteries and their regulations

Information on the different types of lotteries and the regulations around each one. These rules must be followed to ensure you're not acting illegally.

Published: 23 September 2020

Last updated: 18 June 2021

This version was printed or saved on: 19 May 2024

Online version: https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/public-and-players/guide/types-of-lotteries-and-their-regulations

Overview: Lotteries are a form of gambling. Raffles, tombolas and sweepstakes are all classed as lotteries.

Lotteries can only be run either to raise money for good causes or for fun. They cannot be run for private or commercial gain. 

Simple and complex lotteries

There are simple lotteries and complex lotteries, and both of these have different rules around how they are ran.

There are three factors in a simple lottery: 

There are four factors in a complex lottery: 

Who can take part?

The age limit for The National Lottery has recently been changed to 18 following a consultation. This includes all National Lottery games and products. You can read the consultation response on GOV.UK (opens in a new tab).

Permitted lotteries

The Gambling Act 2005 (opens in new tab) created eight categories of permitted lotteries.

They are:

Each type of lottery has its own rules which must be followed.

Lottery responsibilities

For lotteries licensed in England, Scotland or Wales, you must contact us if you suspect that someone is breaking gambling law set out in the Gambling Commission’s licence conditions and codes of practice.

There are responsibilities that you need to be aware of and follow if you are planning on running a lottery.

You must:

An exempt lottery is either a:

If the type of lottery you're running requires a licence, you must follow the Gambling Commission's codes of practice, licence conditions and codes of practice (LCCP) and any conditions that have been set out in legislation.

Promoter responsibilities

Whoever is chosen to be the promoter of a lottery must be authorised in writing by the governing body of the society.

The promoter is responsible by law to make sure that the lottery is being ran legally and must make sure that those selling and distributing tickets are made aware of the relevant regulations. This is the case even if you use a subcontractor to sell tickets.

Types of lottery you can run without a licence

You must follow the rules for the type of lottery you plan to run. Otherwise you could break the law and face a fine or imprisonment.

I want to:

  1. run a small lottery for charity with my club or group
  2. run a fundraiser at an event
  3. run a lottery for my customers as a business owner
  4. run a lottery with people I work with
  5. run a lottery for people I live with
  6. run a small lottery for charity or to raise money for my club or group

1. Run a small lottery for charity with my club or group

You can run a small society lottery to raise money for good causes but not for commercial purposes.

You don't need a licence, however you must register your lottery with your local licensing authority.

Small society lottery

Find out how to run a small society lottery.

It can include things like charities, sport or community groups. Proceeds must be less than £20,000 for a single draw or less than £250,000 over a calendar year.

Example

A community group wants to hold a raffle to raise money for a local meals on wheels scheme.

2. Run a fundraiser at an event

An incidental lottery can take place alongside a commercial or non-commercial event. The lottery cannot be the main reason for holding the event.

Incidental lottery

Find out how to run an incidental lottery. Any money raised must go to charity or other good causes. It cannot be run for private or commercial gain.

Example

A community theatre group wants to hold a tombola during the interval at their Christmas panto.

3. I'm a business owner who wants to run a lottery for my customers

A customer lottery can be run by a business if the lottery will take place at its physical location or premises. You can only sell tickets to customers when they're on your premises for business purposes.

Customer lottery

Find out how to run a customer lottery. It is illegal to make a profit from customer lotteries. All of the money raised by ticket sales must be used to pay for prizes and any expenses for organising the lottery. Prizes must be under £50 in value.

Customer lotteries cannot be used for fundraising.

Example

A local hairdressers wants to run a raffle for customers. It could use the money to pay for physical prizes or services (like a makeover) up to the value of £50.

4. I want to run a lottery with people I work with

A work lottery can only be run and played by colleagues who work at the same physical location.

Work lottery

Find out how to run a work lottery. You can either raise money for good causes or just do the lottery for fun. However, you cannot make a profit. 

If the lottery is not to raise money for a good cause, proceeds have to be used for prizes. 

Example

An office wants to hold a sweepstake for the Grand National. It could either raise money for a good cause, or use the proceeds to buy prizes providing the sweepstake didn't make a profit.

5. I want to run a lottery with people I live with

A residents' lottery can be run if the person running the lottery and everyone taking part live at the same physical location.

Residents' lotteries

Find out how to run a residents' lottery. You can either raise money for good causes or just for fun. However, you cannot make a profit. Proceeds must only be used for reasonable expenses and prizes.

Example

A residential care home wants to hold a lottery. It could either raise money for a good cause, or use the proceeds to buy prizes providing the game didn't make a profit.

6. I want to run a small lottery for charity, or to raise money for my club or group

A private society lottery can be run for members of your private society. This could be a sports club, community group or other type of organisation.

Private society lotteries

Find out how to run a private society lottery.

A private society can be any group or society as long as it is not set up for gambling purposes.  

You can sell tickets to members of the society, and people who aren't members of your society. However, anyone who is not a member must buy the tickets on the society's premises.

A private society lottery can only be used to raise money for good causes, it cannot be for profit or just for fun. It can be used to raise money for something relevant to your club, group or organisation or to raise money for another good cause.

Example

A local, non-league football club want to run a summer raffle. It could either raise money for a good cause, or use the proceeds to raise money to buy new equipment for the club.