Giving Machine

FAQs: Raffles and lotteries

Running a raffle at events can boost profits, whilst also building links with local businesses. As raffles fall under the terms of the Gambling Act 2005, we asked the Gambling Commission - what do charities need to know?

A lottery is a type of gambling which has three essential ingredients:

  • You have to pay to enter the game
  • There is always at least one prize
  • Prizes are awarded purely on chance

Typically, raffles run by community fundraising groups fall into two categories - a 'small society lottery' or an 'incidental non-commercial lottery'.

Small society lottery

If holiding a raffle where tickets are sold prior to the event, it falls under the terms of a 'small-society lottery'. With this type of raffle, players buy a pre-printed numbered ticket which must feature certain information (see below). The tickets are randomly drawn and those holding the same numbered tickets win a prize. 

To run a 'small society lottery' you must register with your local authority (costs £40 to register, then £20 a year thereafter). The society in question must be set up for non-commercial purposes and income must not exceed £20,000 per single draw or £250,000 in one year. If your income exceeds this you need to register with the Gambling Commission as a 'large society lottery'.

Incidental non-commercial lottery

An 'incidental non-commercial lottery' is where all ticket sales and draws take place during the event. This doesn't require any permissions or licences. These are held at non-commercial events, such as school fêtes or quiz nights. 

Another version of an incidental non-commercial lottery is a sweepstake - for example where participants pay to randomly pick a number in a 'guess the number of sweets in a jar' game or squares on a lucky numbers grid. The person who guesses the winning number wins.

Do we need a lottery licence to run a raffle at our event?

If running a raffle where tickets are NOT sold before the event, this falls under the terms of an 'incidental non-commercial lottery'. As such, you will not require a licence or any specific permissions. However, you must adhere to the following rules:

  • All tickets must be sold at the location during the event and the result made public while the event takes place.
  • The promoters of the lottery cannot deduct more than £100 from the proceeds in expenses incurred, such as for the cost of printing ticket, hire of equipment, etc.
  • No more than £500 can be spent on prizes (but other prizes may be donated) and the raffle cannot involve a rollover of prizes.

If selling tickets prior to the event (and income is less than £20,000), this falls under the terms of a 'small society lottery' and you will need to register with your local authority.

Can we sell tickets before the event?

If you're planning to sell tickets prior to the event and the proceeds (from ticket sales) for a single draw are not anticipated to exceed £20,000 then you must register with your local authority as a 'small society lottery'. You would need to pay a small fee and comply with a range of regulatory requirements including providing entrants to the lottery with tickets stating specific information (see below) and preventing children under the age of 16 from participating. If the proceeds for a single draw were to exceed £20,000 you would require a 'large society lottery' licence from the Gambling Commission.


Are there specific details that must be printed on our raffle tickets?

There are no specific requirements for details to be printed on tickets sold in an 'incidental non-commercial lottery'.

For a 'small society lottery' (tickets sold in advance), tickets must show:

  • The name of the promoting society (and the purpose of the lottery),
  • The ticket price,
  • The name and address of the organiser,
  • The date and place of the draw.

We have alcoholic prizes - are there any other licence requirements to consider?

Not from a lottery perspective. Obviously alcoholic prizes cannot be given to under 18s, but you would need to check with your local authority for any further requirements.

ADVICE FROM LICENSING OFFICE: If running your raffle as an 'incidental non-commercial lottery' and your prizes are in sealed containers a TEN would not be required, however you may need a TEN for other attractions at your event or if your event itself is considered 'regulated entertainment'. If someone who appears to be under 18 wins an alcoholic prize, checks should be made to verify their age and good practice is to withhold the prize until it can be given to someone of 18 or over. If selling tickets in advance, with alcoholic prizes, a TEN may be required - check with your local authority.

We are selling raffle tickets at our event, with alcoholic prizes - does it matter if my son sits on the stall with me?

If the lottery is being run as an 'incidental non-commercial lottery' then this would be allowed from a lottery/raffle point of view. This is not an issue for the Licensing Act 2003.

Do we need to be a charity in order to run a raffle?

You do not need to be a registered charity to run a raffle/lottery, however they cannot be run for private or commercial gain. You will need to set up as a society if you are looking to be registered or licensed as a 'small society lottery'.

Can children buy (or sell) raffle tickets?

They can in an 'incidental non-commercial lottery' but children under the age of 16 cannot sell tickets or participate in a 'small society lottery'.

We've had to postpone our event, can I put back the draw of our raffle?

If you are registered with your local authority to run a 'small society lottery', then you need to contact them in case they have specific terms and conditions you must adhere to. If you put back the date of the draw, it will need to take place as soon as practicably possible. You must make every attempt to notify those who have purchased tickets in the lottery/raffle of the change to the draw date. The notification may be through a number of channels including email, a telephone/text message, your website, a newsletter and your local newspaper.

Can we sell raffle/tombola tickets for 50p each or three for £1?

Tombolas are often run at non-commercial events, such as school fetes, and so normally offered as a type of lottery called an 'incidental non-commercial lottery' under the Gambling Act 2005. Although there are other rules for this type of lottery, the only requirements regarding tickets are that they are sold at the place where the event is held, while the event is taking place. Under the Act there is no reference to ticket pricing so it is acceptable to, for example, charge 50p for one ticket, £1 for three tickets. Similarly, if during the latter stages of the event there were still prizes left, there are no restrictions on reducing prices of tickets further in order to sell them.

For more information

More details about running a raffle for fundraising can be found in the 'Lotteries FAQs' section on the Gambling Commission website ( Or contact the licensing officer at your local authority.

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