Office sweepstakes – are they legal?

Posted on: June 29th, 2016


With Euro 2016 underway and Wimbledon and the Olympics just around the corner, offices all over the country are seeing colleagues stick some money in an envelope for a good old office sweepstake. But what are the legalities of staff having a flutter in the office? And who’s responsible for the winnings if something goes wrong?

We thought it would help to offer you a brief rundown of the rules and regulations in this area, as outlined by the Personnel Today website.

Workplace sweepstakes can be a great way to bring employees together and generate a bit of positive morale. However, bosses and those organising the sweepstake need to ensure that everything is above board.

According to the 2005 Gambling Act, the rules around so-called “work lotteries” are fairly straight-forward. But there some traps that are easy to fall into – for example, did you know that if your office has two locations, a separate sweepstake has to be held in each rather than holding one for both locations?

There are also certain rules that apply for traditional sweepstakes – ie, when everyone puts some money in and pulls a name out of a hat. These include: The sweepstake cannot be advertised anywhere outside of the workplace. The organiser cannot profit in any way from the activity. Each ticket has to cost the same amount. The organiser and all participants must be part of the same workforce. The choice of team has to come down to chance – no participant can choose their own. There cannot be a “rollover” of any kind. Participants have to pay before they are allowed a ticket – so there should be no “can I pay you later?”

It is also stated in the Act that if anything does go wrong, the organiser or promoter is the one liable; in most cases this will be an employee, but if the employer has organised or explicitly approved the sweepstake, then they are deemed liable.

The final thing to bear in mind is that you cannot organise a workplace sweepstake if your workplace holds a gambling licence – which rules out bookies, casinos and some drinking establishments.

Now that you know the rules, there’s nothing stopping you from holding your own office sweepstake at the next big sporting event – it’s just up to you whether you hedge your bets on England!

Image: Pick a card by Aaron Jacobs available under the (CC BY-SA 2.0) license

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