Running a raffle or lottery

Why is this important?

If you intend to run a lottery, prize competition or free draw for charitable purposes you need to follow any gambling regulations that may apply, including laws relating to the process of allocating prizes fairly. The regulation tends to refer to all these activities as lotteries.

A typical small-scale lottery is a raffle where players buy a ticket with a number on it. The tickets are randomly drawn and those holding the same numbered ticket win a prize.

Another version is a sweepstake, for example, where the participants pay to randomly draw the names of a horse in a race. The person who draws the winning horse wins a stated proportion of the entry money with the remainder (usually 50%) going to the good cause.

There are other versions too, including:

  • a tombola – often found at a funday or summer fete
  • a 100 club which is often a weekly event organised, for members only, perhaps by a local Versus Arthritis branch.

There is no maximum price for a ticket, in each lottery all tickets must cost the same. That way everyone has the same chance of winning for the same outlay. Incidental lotteries are the exception to this rule and do not have specific ticket requirements.

What exactly is a lottery?

A lottery is a kind of gambling which has four essential elements:

  1. You have to pay to enter the game.
  2. There is always at least one prize.
  3. Prizes are awarded purely on chance.
  4. All tickets must cost the same (with the exception of incidental lotteries).

What type of lottery am I running?

Incidental lotteries

Tombolas, lotteries and raffles held at events which are held as part of a fundraising event are referred to as ‘incidental lotteries’ and don’t need a licence or permission from any authority (although you should get permission from the event organiser or site owner).

All tickets must be sold at the location/time of the event but the draw can be at the event or after it has finished. Promoters of the lottery may deduct from the proceeds of the lottery no more than £100 for expenses and no more than £500 spent on prizes (other prizes may be donated). There are no rollovers.

There are also two other types of lottery for which you do not need permission, outlined below.

Private society lotteries

These must raise money for the purposes for which the society is conducted or to raise funds to support a charity or good cause. They can only be promoted by authorised members of a society and each person to whom a ticket is sold must either be a member of the society or on premises wholly or mainly used for the administration of the society. There are no rollovers.

Work lotteries/residents’ lotteries

This category is only for colleagues who work at, or people who live on, the same single set of premises*. No rollovers are allowed. These must either:

  • make no profit (i.e. all the proceeds are used for reasonable expense and prizes)
  • raise funds for a charity or good cause (e.g. Versus Arthritis).

*Single set of premises

This term does not include multiple sites. For example a company with premises in more than one location would not be able to sell tickets for a single work lottery across all of their premises.

If you’re not running an incidental, work or private lottery then you’re going to be running a society lottery

Society lotteries are categorised as either small or large.

Small society lotteries

As a rule of thumb if you’re printing and selling tickets to the general public outside of a specific workplace or residence then you’re running a small society lottery.
The official requirements are that:

  • proceeds do not exceed £20,000 for a single draw
  • proceeds do not exceed £250,000 in a calendar year.

Small society lotteries do not require a licence but must be registered with the local authority in the area where you’re operating.

Details of registration requirements and procedures should be available from the licensing department of the relevant local authority.

Find your local authority.

Large societies lotteries

If you think your raffle or lottery is likely to exceed £20,000 in a single draw or over £250,000 in a single year please contact the local fundraising team for further guidance.

Ticket requirements

There are specific guidelines for what your tickets need to show based on the type of lottery that you’re running.

Incidental lottery

A ticket must be provided but there are no specific requirements for tickets (e.g. you could use cloakroom tickets).

Private/ residential or work lottery

A ticket must be provided but there are no specific requirements for tickets. The price payable for each ticket must be the same and the rights created by the ticket are non-transferable.

Small society lottery

Tickets must show:

  • the name of the society or local authority
  • the ticket price
  • the name and address of the organiser
  • the date of the draw.

Age restrictions

At an incidental lottery you can sell tickets to anyone attending the event, however, if the prizes include alcohol you must not give alcohol as a prize to anyone under 18.

If you’re running a private/work/residential or small society lottery you must not sell tickets to anyone under 16.

The draw

The draw must be witnessed and you should make a record of the result. With an incidental lottery this can be done by making the draw during the event.

For other lotteries you should record the results and make them available if people request to see them. You must include all paid-for, valid ticket entries in the draw.

For non incidental lotteries, if you’re going to transfer late entries to the next draw, you must be clear about this when you sell the ticket.

Again for non incidental lotteries if, for any reason, the draw date needs to be delayed from that shown on the ticket, you must take all reasonable steps to make sure that everyone who has bought a ticket knows about the change and you must discuss it with the issuer of the licence.

After the draw (this applies to small society lotteries and residential/work/private lotteries)

You must return all filled-in ticket stubs and payments to the named promoter for audit purposes.

If the owner of a winning ticket donates their prize back to a society, this must be shown in your lottery’s accounting records as a donation.

You must not make details of winners public without their permission.

You must not make public the details of winners in a way that will identify them i.e reveal their name and address or name and telephone number.

You must contact all winners within seven days of the draw. You must make all reasonable efforts to award prizes to the holders of winning tickets.

Handling the cash you have raised through your raffle or lottery

Keep safe when handling money by following these guidelines:

  • Do not leave unsecured cash unattended.
  • Count your money raised in a secure place not in the open.
  • Wherever possible, ensure all cash collected in counted and recorded by two unrelated people.
  • Ensure cash donations are collected in sealed containers/ collecting tins.
  • Open collecting tins yourself with another person unrelated to you.
  • Bank the money from collections as soon as possible by sending it to Versus Arthritis in the full amount without taking fees/expenses. You can bank money into your personal account and send a bank transfer or cheque to Versus Arthritis.

Risk assessing your activity

The fundraising regulations state that you should carry out and record a risk assessment of any fundraising activity and this includes raffles and lotteries.

Risk assessments are a way of recording the potential for things to go wrong at an event and what you can do to stop that happening. They’re a useful part of your event planning, often working as an event checklist. Some venues or insurers may ask to see a risk assessment.

Download our blank risk assessment template (Word doc, 126 KB).

You can call the Events team on 0300 790 0402 for support.

Handling personal data

In the process of running a raffle or lottery you may find yourself processing personal data, such as contact details.

As a charity we take the protection and processing of people’s data very seriously. Check out our privacy policy to see how we handle data.

As a fundraiser you’re likely dealing with personal data. Only collect data you need, do not share this data and only keep the data for as long as you need it.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Only collect data you need.
  • Store data safely by keeping hardcopies in a cupboard and password protecting electronic copies.
  • Destroy data you don’t need.
    Remove data upon request or in case of data of deceased individuals.

Protecting personal data ensures people can trust fundraisers to use their data legally, fairly and responsibly.

Certain special category data such as information about religion, race or health might have stronger protections. We see no valid reason for fundraisers to hold any special category data and we would ask you not to do this.

For more support why not contact the Versus Arthritis team?

If you’re a sports event fundraiser call the Events team on 0300 790 0402 or email:

If you’re organising a community fundraising event call the community fundraising team on
0300 790 0405 or email: