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Small society lotteries

Small society lotteries are required to register with the council and do not require a licence from the Gambling Commission as long as they meet the following criteria:

  • £20,000-worth of tickets or less are put on sale (organisers and promoters do not sell tickets to under 16s)
  • the society's aggregate proceeds from the lotteries do not exceed £250,000 a year.

Making an application

The society must register with the council in the area where its principal office is located. The registration consists of:

  • an application form;
  • a fee of £40;
  • an authorisation form naming a promoter and two members certified to countersign any returns made to the council.

The registration does not have an expiry date but an annual fee of £20 is due within the two months before the anniversary of the registration. Failure to pay within this period will cause the cancellation of the registration.

Application forms and further information are available from the Licensing Unit.

External lottery managers

Registered societies may use External Lottery Managers (ELMs) to run part or all of their lotteries. An ELM is defined in section 257 of the Gambling Act 2005  (the Act) as a person or a company who makes arrangements for a lottery on behalf of a society or council but is not a member, officer or employee of the society or council.

All ELMs must hold a lottery manager's operating licence issued by the Gambling Commission before they can manage a licensed society or council lottery or a society lottery registered with the council.

The use of an ELM to manage part or all of its lottery does not absolve the society from its responsibility for ensuring that the lottery is conducted in such a way as to ensure that it is lawful and fully complies with all conditions and codes of practice.

ELMs will also need to hold a remote gambling licence if they intend to sell tickets by means of remote communication (internet, telephone etc).

Ticket information

All tickets in a society lottery registered with the council must state the:

  • name of the society on whose behalf the lottery is promoted;
  • price of the ticket (which must be the same for all tickets, though there is no limit on ticket prices);
  • name and address of the member of the society responsible for the promotion of the lottery;
  • date of the draw.

Sale of tickets

As lotteries are a form of gambling, societies are required to ensure that children and other vulnerable people are not exploited by their lotteries. The minimum age for participation in a lottery is 16 years. A person commits an offence if they invite or someone younger than this to enter a lottery.

Tickets should not be sold in the street, which includes any:

  • bridge;
  • road;
  • lane;
  • footway;
  • subway;
  • square;
  • court; or
  • passage (including passages through enclosed premises such as shopping malls).

Tickets may be sold:

  • from a kiosk;
  • in a shop; and
  • door-to-door.


Prizes awarded in small society lotteries can be either cash or non-monetary. The amount of the money deducted from the proceeds of the lottery to cover prizes must not exceed the limit set out by the Act, which states that no more than 80 per cent of the total proceeds of the lottery should be paid out in prizes. This includes any expenses and fees for external lottery managers incurred in running the lottery. Donated prizes are not counted as part of this limit, as no money would have been drawn to cover their purchase but they should still be declared on the return following the draw.

Lottery returns

Every society registered with the council to run small lotteries must submit a statement providing:

  • the date on which the tickets were available for sale or supply;
  • the date of the draw;
  • the total proceeds from the lottery;
  • the amounts deducted by the promoters of the lottery for costs incurred in organising the lottery;
  • the amount applied directly to the purpose for which the promoting society is conducted (at least 20 per cent of the gross proceeds);
  • whether any expenses incurred in connection with the lottery were not paid by deduction from the proceeds and if so, the amount of expenses and the sources from which they were paid.

A registered society's statement must be sent to the council within three months of the day on which the draw (or last draw) took place. It must be signed by two members of the society appointed in writing for that purpose by the society's governing body and accompanied by a copy of that appointment.

As the purpose of these lotteries is to raise money for non-commercial causes, the Act requires that a minimum proportion of the money raised by the lottery is channelled to the goals of the society that promoted the lottery. If a small society lottery does not comply with these limits, it will be in breach of the Act's provisions and the promoter will consequently be liable for prosecution.

The Gambling Commission may ask to inspect a society's returns, so the council must retain returns for a minimum period of three years from the date of the lottery draw.

Any reports of sales of lottery tickets to or by children less that 16 years old would give reason to fully investigate the specific circumstances of a small society lottery.

Protection of children

Please note that children should not be involved in the sale or purchase of small society lottery tickets. This includes lotteries run by schools or community organisations. Children cannot participate in a lottery by collecting or paying for their parent(s) tickets.

The penalties for these offences are imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks / a fine not exceeding £5,000.

The Licensing Team recommends that each society implement effective procedures to minimise the risk of lottery tickets being sold to children or giving tickets to children to sell. Measures should also be put into place to check the age of potentially underage purchasers of lottery tickets and take action where there are unlawful attempts to purchase tickets.


For more information contact Licensing Unit by telephone: Licensing Services - 01634 337107 or 337108 / Enforcement - 01634 337112 or 337106 or by email: licensing@medway.gov.uk

Write to: Licensing Unit, Medway Council, Gun Wharf, Dock Road, Chatham, Kent ME4 4TR