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Fundraising with race nights

A non-commercial race night is an event where participants stake money on the outcome of live, recorded or virtual races.

You can run a race night for charity without a licence from us.

However, you must make sure you follow the rules for the type of activity you want to run.

There are three types of race night:

  1. non-commercial gaming
  2. occasional use notices at a sporting venue
  3. private gaming

Only the non-commercial gaming and occassional use notices types can be used for fundraising. 

Non-commercial gaming

Players must select a horse totally dependent on chance. You can’t give odds or form to help players choose. For example, you could play a video of a horse race that’s already taken place as long as you didn’t reveal details of the horses.

This kind of race night can be run without a licence, or any other form of permission. However, it must be run according to the rules of the following three categories.

Money raised from the event

No private gain can be made from non-commercial gaming.  All money taken from the event must be given to the advertised good causes.  However, you can use some of the money to cover any reasonable costs, such as prizes and ticket printing.

Selling drinks, refreshments or other services

If there are third parties selling goods or services at your event this doesn’t count as money raised for charity and can be kept by the third party.

Who can take part?

Under-18s can take part bingo, casino, poker or race nights if they are run as non-commercial gaming.

Non-commercial prize gaming 

To run this kind of race night, players must be told before playing what good cause will benefit from the profits of the race.

In non-commercial prize gaming, the ‘race’ determines the individual winner or winners.

For example, those who have paid are given or select a named horse in the race. The winners are then awarded the prizes that had been advertised in advance. 

Prizes

Prizes must not depend on the number of people playing or the total value of tickets sold.  There is no limit on prizes, as long as they are advertised before the event. 

Non-commercial equal chance gaming 

Equal chance gaming is where the chances are equally favourable to all players, and they’re not competing against a bank. It also includes games such as poker or bingo.

An example of a race night as non-commercial equal chance gaming is where each participant pays a fee for a randomly selected ‘horse’ in each ‘race’ and the participant with the winning horse or the person who selected the winning horse receives a prize proportionate to the stakes placed, up to the limits. 

For example, in this kind of race night each player pays a fee for a randomly selected ‘horse’ in each ‘race’. The player with the winning horse can receive a prize proportionate to the stakes placed, up to the limits.

Prizes

The maximum amount that a player may be charged is £8 per day.

This includes: -entrance or participation fees -betting stakes -any other payments in relation to the gaming.

You must make sure that the amount paid out in prizes is below £600 in total across all players. Unless, the event is the final in a series in which all of the players have previously taken part.  In this case, a higher prize fund of up to £900 is allowed. 

Incidental lottery

You can run a race night as an incidental lottery. This means the activity takes place at, but isn’t the main feature of, another event.

For example, a ‘race night’ run as an incidental lottery is where a horse is picked at random for each paying customer who is then awarded a prize if the horse wins the race.

Occasional use notices

Run a race night at a racetrack for charity

For this kind of race night bets are taken by a licensed bookmaker. This includes cases where odds and form are available to players. The person administering the betting must have a Gambling Commission licence. You can search our public register to check if a gambling business, such as a bookmaker, is licensed.

Where it can take place

This kind of fundraising event can only take place at sports venues under an occasional use notice (OUN). The OUN allows the licensed bookmaker to provide betting facilities at the sports venue for a short period of time.

Before the race night

The premises owner must notify your local licensing authority, usually your local council. They must do this by serving an occasional use notice (OUN). You can find your local council on GOV.UK (opens in new tab)

Serving an occasional use notice (OUN)

An occasional use notice must:

  • be made in writing
  • sent in advance to the local authority
  • copied to the local chief of police (or chief constable in Scotland).
An OUN can’t be used for more than eight days in a calendar year for any one venue.

Using proceeds for fundraising

Because the betting is being used for fundraising, it doesn't matter if the bets are taken is held at that venue. The sporting event the bets are taken also doesn't need to be taking place at the same time as the betting under the OUN.

However, all proceeds must go to a charity or good causes. This includes the difference between stakes placed and pay-out made. Proceeds can’t be taken for private gain by the licensed gambling business.

There is more information about betting under an OUN in section 39 of the Gambling Act 2005 (opens in new tab)

Private gaming

Private gaming can only take place somewhere the public doesn’t have access to.

For example:

  • a house
  • hostel
  • hall of residence.

You don’t need a licence for this kind of race night. However, you can’t use private gaming for fundraising.

You can’t charge any entry fees

This includes any kind of admission fee or fee for taking part. You also can’t deduct money from stakes or prizes.

You can’t deduct from or levy on money staked or won by players in the game. It doesn’t matter if the charge is said to be voluntary or compulsory. Particularly if players are prevented from taking part if they don’t make the ‘voluntary’ donation. Or, if there’s peer pressure to make the donation.

You can’t make a profit from the game

You can’t make any profits, even if you intend to donate the profits to charity or good causes.

Private clubs

Anyone who joins a club to take part in a private event are likely to be legally classed as members of the public. Particularly if someone joins the club a short time before the event in order to take part. Courts won't readily allow membership status to be abused in order to circumvent the law in this way.

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