Press Release: London, September 8 2008 – ‘Devon property raffle illegal’ says gambling law expert as Gambling Commission’s stance sees more raffles spring up nationwide.
Owners of a £1m property in Devon recently caused a media frenzy when they decided to raffle their home for £25 per ticket. The raffle has been positioned as a ‘prize competition’ with an entry question designed to circumnavigate complex gambling laws.
However, according to gambling law expert Antoinette Jucker of Pinset Masons, the Devon property raffle is illegal and warrants investigation.
"I think this is an illegal lottery. The Gambling Commission should take an interest in this," she said. "If they don't do anything, others will do the same thing, raffling houses or cars or anything else that they're struggling to sell."
Blanket media coverage of the Devon raffle has already resulted in copycat schemes cropping up nationwide, including raffles for properties ranging from a few hundred thousand to millions of pounds. For example, one raffle emerged recently offering a £5m ‘prize’ of a property, business and Harley Davidson motorbike. Another hopes to raise over £2m by raffling 5 properties worth about £1m.
According to the Gambling Commission’s guidance on Prize Competitions and Free Draws the test for a scheme to qualify as a prize competition is whether the “skill, knowledge or judgment criterion can reasonably be expected to either:
- prevent a significant proportion of people who wish to participate from doing so (section 14(5)(b) of the Act); or
- prevent a significant proportion of people who participate from receiving a prize ((section 14(5)(a)).”
The same guidelines also outline how any competition must “provide evidence of compliance, for instance by demonstrating from their records that a significant proportion of entrants either in that competition or previous similar ones had got the answers wrong.”
The question posed by the couple raffling the Devon property is “What is the cost of an adult full season coarse fishing licence for 2008/2009?”
Entrants are posed this question before any registration process or ticket payment. This means entrants have unlimited opportunities to find the correct answer, which can easily be found by cutting and pasting the question into Google.
Asmat Monaghan has spent two years developing Humraz (www.humraz.com) – a reverse auction that complies with all Gambling Commission competition guidelines.
Mrs Monaghan wrote an email to the Gambling Commission to query the compliance of the Devon property raffle. The Commission responded that it qualified as a prize competition because it “is clear that a person is not eligible to enter the draw without answering the question correctly, which stops it being a lottery.”
Mrs Monaghan was surprised and amused by the Commission’s response. “It seems a strange interpretation of the Act, not to mention their own guidance,” she says. “The Devon property raffle cannot prove that the skill required actually deters people from participating.
“With Humraz we have worked hard to develop something that is unique, fun and does not rely on chance,” continues Monaghan. “It was important to us that we complied with the Gambling Act, so we didn’t even consider schemes that pay lip service to it.
“It now seems you can transform an illegal lottery into a prize competition by simply asking a single question just before you sell the tickets.”
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