A number of helpful guidelines have been published by law firms advising on how to make sure workplace sweepstakes, presumably for the World Cup, stay legal. In essence, to stay within the “work lottery” exemption under the Gambling Act 2005, make sure the whole pot goes out in winnings.
If your office has been public-spirited enough to decide that some of its World Cup sweepstake pot should go to charity, it is more difficult to get this within the relevant exemption in the Gambling Act 2005 (the “incidental non-commercial lottery”). It may therefore be running an unlawful lottery, as it will almost certainly not be licensed.
So what do you do with this unwelcome news? I’m afraid this is a classic example of lawyers hijacking an event with wide public interest in order to generate publicity – you could say this post is merely another example. What is the point of lawyers describing what may be a commonplace situation without helpful practical advice?
Commercial lawyers understand that as with many things in life, it’s a matter of risk. Here, the risk of the Gambling Commission descending upon you to prosecute you for having a charity lottery is very small. You were almost better off not knowing that you were operating an illegal lottery. That said, lawyers can get the assessment of risk wrong, too. For example, I would have put the risk of being prosecuted for a poor taste, joke tweet on Twitter at near zero, but the Paul Chambers case disproves that (see our post on this below).
It’s the luck of the draw.
Speaking of draws, let’s hope last night’s dire 1-1 against USA was England’s one and only poor performance of the World Cup and that your team in your office sweepstake wins, but only if you drew England.