Small Society Lotteries

Do I need to register as a Small Society Lottery?

Any non-commercial society that wishes to promote small lotteries, raffles, prize draws or similar, in order to raise funds for a purpose of the society, must be registered with the local authority for the area in which the principal offices of the society are situated.

An application form can be found under related documents.

What is a Lottery?

A lottery is a type of gambling where:

  • you have to pay to enter the game
  • there is always at least one prize
  • prizes are awarded purely on chance

A typical small lottery is a raffle where players purchase a ticket with a number on it; the tickets are randomly drawn and those holding the same numbered ticket win a prize.  Other versions include tombola's, scratch cards and sweepstakes.  Whilst there is no maximum price for a ticket, in each lottery all tickets must cost the same.  Everyone has the same chance of winning for the same outlay.

Exempt Lotteries

Some types of lotteries do not require permission, they are:

  • Incidental Lotteries - held entirely at non-commercial events (i.e. all tickets are sold and the draw is made at the event), where all the money raised at the event goes entirely to purposes that are not for private or commercial gain.
  • Private Lotteries - where a private society, work or residents lottery sell tickets only to society members, workers in or residents of a premises.  An example might be where a weekly raffle is held and tickets are sold only to the residents of a residential care home.
  • Customer lotteries - run by occupiers of business premises selling tickets only to customers on the premises itself.  (The maximum amount a customer can win is £50 whether in money, money's worth, or a mixture of both)
What requirements relate to a Small Society Lottery?

The society must be 'non-commercial' which means it must be established and conducted for at least one of the following purposes:

  • for charitable purposes (as defined by Section 2 of the Charities Act 2006)
  • for the purpose of enabling participation in, or of supporting, sport, athletics or a cultural society, or
  • for any other non-commercial purpose other than that of private gain.

To be classified as a 'small' society, each draw must meet the following requirements:

  • the proceeds from a single lottery must not exceed £20,000
  • the aggregate proceeds from lotteries promoted in a calendar year must not exceed £250,000.

If a Society wishes to exceed the above values, they must register with the Gambling Commission.


The limits placed on a small society lottery are:

  • at least 20% of the lottery proceeds must be applied to the purposes of the society
  • no single prize may be worth more than £25,000, whether in money, money's worth or a mixture of both
  • rollovers between lotteries are only permitted where every lottery affected is also a small society lottery promoted by the same society, and the maximum single prize is £25,000
  • every ticket in the lottery must cost the same and the ticket fee must be paid to the society (i.e. the society must take payment) before entry into the draw is allowed.

A ticket can be a physical or a virtual ticket (a virtual ticket being non-physical, ie an email or text). 

However, every ticket in a small society lottery:

  • must be a document
  • must identify the promoting society
  • must state the name and address of a member of the society who is designated as being the promoter of the lottery (or if there is one, the external lottery manager)
  • must state the date of the draw (or each draw) in the lottery. 

The requirement to provide this information can be satisfied by providing an opportunity for the participant to retain the message electronically or print it.

Lottery tickets may only be sold by persons over the age of 16, to persons over the age of 16.  Societies running lotteries should have written policies and procedures in place to help prevent and deal with cases of under-age play.

All small society lotteries must maintain written records of any unsold and returned tickets for a period of one year from the date of the lottery draw.  The Council is permitted to inspect the records of the lottery for any purpose related to the lottery.

Lottery Prizes

Prizes awarded in small society lotteries can be either cash or non-monetary.  The amount of money deducted from the proceeds of the lottery to cover prizes must not exceed the limits set out by the Act i.e that combined with any expenses incurred with running the lottery, they must not comprise more than 80% of the total proceeds of the lottery.  Donated prizes do not count as part of the 80% but should still be declared on the return following the lottery draw.

The maximum value of any prize allowed in a small society lottery is £25,000.

Unclaimed prizes can be 'rolled over' to future lotteries run by the same society, providing the prize limit is not breached.

Lottery Returns

After promoting a lottery, the registered society must return details of that lottery to the local authority within three months of the date of the draw (or last draw).  Details required include:

  • details of the arrangements for the lottery including the date(s) on which tickets were sold, the date(s) of any draw(s) and the arrangements for prizes (including any rollover)
  • the proceeds of the lottery
  • the amounts deducted in respect of the provision of prizes
  • the amounts deducted in respect of other costs incurred in organising the lottery
  • any amount applied to a purpose for which the promoting society is conducted
  • details of any expenses that were paid for other than by deduction from the proceeds.

The return must be signed (electronic signatures are acceptable if the return is sent electronically) by two members of the society, who must be aged 18 or over, are appointed for the purpose in writing by the society or, if it has one, its governing body, and accompanied by a copy of their letter or letters of appointment.

A lottery return form is available under related documents.

West Somerset Council is required to retain returns for a minimum period of 3 years from the date of the lottery draw.  They are available for inspection by the general public for a period of 18 months following the date of the lottery draw.

Where a society runs more than one lottery in a calendar year, the Council will monitor the cumulative totals of returns to ensure that the society does not breach the annual monetary limit of £250,00 on ticket values.

Public Register

The council maintains a public register listing all of the societies registered for the promotion of small society lotteries.  This register, together with the details of any completed lotteries in the last 18 months can be viewed at our offices at West Somerset House, Killick Way, Williton, Taunton, Somerset, TA4 4QA.

How Do I Register a Small Society Lottery?

Applications can only be made to the local authority in which the principal premises of the society are situated.

To apply, the following must be submitted with your application:

  • fully completed application form (a form is available under related documents)
  • copy of the Society's terms and conditions or constitution signed by the appropriate officers
  • the prescribed fee

Providing there are no reasons for refusal, we will endeavour to process your registration within 10 working days of receipt of all documentation.  If you have not heard from us within this time, please contact us.

If reasons are identified which could lead to refusal of your application (see grounds for refusal below), the time scale to determine your application will be extended to allow time for representations t be invited and considered.

Grounds for Refusal

West Somerset Council consult with the Gambling Commision as part of the application process.  Applications will be refused if any of the following apply:

  • an operating licence held by the applicant for registration has been revoked by the Gambling Commission,
  • an application for an operating licence made by the applicant for registration has been reused by the Gambling Commission within the last 5 years.

The Council may also refuse an application for registration for any of the following reasons:

  • the society in question cannot be deemed non-commercial
  • a person who will or may be connected with the promotion of the lottery has been convicted of a relevant offence listed in Schedule 7 to the Gambling Act 2005
  • information provided in or with the application for registration is found to be false or misleading

The Council may only refuse an application for registration after the society has had the opportunity to make representations.  These can be taken at a formal hearing or via correspondence.

The Society will be informed of the reasons for refusal and be provided with details of the evidence on which that decision has been reached.

Grounds for Revocation

West Somerset Council may revoke a registration if they feel that they would be obliged or permitted to refuse an application for the registration if it were being made anew.

The Council may only revoke a registration after the society has had the opportunity to make representations.  These can be taken at a formal hearing or via correspondence.


The initial registration fee is £40 with an annual fee of £20 payable in each subsequent year that the registration is in force.

Failure to pay the annual fee is likely to result in the society's registration being cancelled meaning that any lottery activity will be illegal unless and until a new application is registered under the Gambling Act 2005.


If you wish to change a promoter listed on your registration, please complete and return a change of promoter form.

If you wish to cancel a registration, contact the Licensing Unit

If you wish to notify us of any amendments to your society's terms and conditions or constitution, please contact the Licensing Unit.


A list of relevant offices can be found under related documents on this page.


Any appeal against a refusal to grant or the revocation of a registration must be made to:

Taunton Deane Magistrates' Court, St Johns Road, Taunton, Somerset, TA1 4AX.

The Magistrates can either:

  • affirm the decision of the Licensing Authority
  • reverse the decision of the Licensing Authority
  • make any other order.

Appeals must be made to the Magistrates' Court within 21 days of receiving notice.

Applications should be sent to the Licensing Unit, West Somerset House, Killick Way, Williton, Taunton, Somerset, TA4 4QA

Tel: 01643 703704