UKGC Puts Kibosh on £500,000 House Raffle

UK betting laws have stopped a £500,000 house auction in its tracks after the Gambling Commission ruled the competition was akin to a lottery.

house raffle tickets

Robert and Avril Smith are back to square one after the UKGC put the kibosh on their house raffle. (Image: Wotton Printers)

Despite informing the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) of their intention to raffle off their home, Robert and Avril Smith were recently told to stop accepting entries.

It had been the retired couple’s intention to hold a draw on January 4, with one person being selected to win their North Yorkshire home. However, just days left before the winner was due to be announced, the UKGC stepped in and told Mr and Mrs Smith that the competition was a “lottery” and not a “legal prize competition.”

Skill is Crucial

Under the gaming regulator’s rules, only certain charities and the national lottery can run draws based on chance. In the case of Mr and Mrs Smith, their house raffle didn’t have a sufficient barrier to entry to ensure the result was based on more than pure chance alone.

Following the rise of house raffles in 2017, the UKGC reconfirmed that private lotteries were illegal and that draws had to include an element of skill. The same year, businesswoman Donna Pirie gave people the chance to win her £1.7 million mansion by taking part in a crossword competition.

After paying £25 to enter, participants had to complete a crossword. All correct entries were then selected from a random draw.

In addition to adding an element of skill to the raffle, Pirie announced that some of the money raised would be given to charity.

In a similar vein, entrepreneur Benno Spencer created Raffle House in 2018. Designed to make house raffles easier to manage, Spencer’s way of skirting the UK’s lottery laws was to include a simple question with each draw.

Like Pirie’s crossword, only those that gave the correct answer had a chance of being picked at random.

House Raffle Draws Blank

Prior to hosting their house raffle on Wayh.co.uk, the Smiths obtained legal advice which suggested their draw was legal. However, on reviewing the terms and conditions, the UKGC concluded that there wasn’t a sufficient barrier to entry and, therefore, it was an illegal lottery.

Disappointed, the couple are now offering everyone who paid the £10 entry fee a full refund. What’s more, the retirees are now no closer to moving on with their lives.

“As you will have seen my wife and I have been through a lot over the last three years and it was hoped that this would give us the break we need. Unfortunately, we are back to square one,” the pair wrote on Wayh.co.uk.

The issue of house raffles is one that’s made the headlines sporadically over the last few years. With the UKGC making its intentions clear that rule breaches won’t be tolerated, it’s likely clear guidelines for house-related competitions will soon come into effect.

Much like loot boxes have become a source of contention over the last 12 months, the UKGC will want to take a proactive approach to ensure more individuals don’t fall foul of the law.

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