WFH could mean your Grand National workplace sweepstake is illegal

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Traditional office sweepstake risks falling foul of gambling law if participants enter remotely

Gambling regulation expert provides guidance on how to comply with law when setting up workplace pool

The recent trend towards flexible working means many businesses are at risk of falling foul of gambling legislation, if organising the traditional office Grand National sweepstake, a leading law firm is warning.

With this weekend’s big race at Aintree attracting the interest of not just racing fans but the general public at large, it is typically one of the most popular events for an office sweepstake.

In pre-Covid times there was little risk involved in such a contest, other than perhaps an excess of workplace rivalry, especially given the event’s propensity for surprises and upsets.

However, Poppleston Allen, a leading gambling licensing law firm, says that with the shift towards hybrid working, organisers now need to be more cautious.

“While formal gambling activity is heavily regulated by the Gambling Commission, there is an exception designed to allow the general public to have a bit of fun by taking part in what is officially called a work lottery,” says Richard Bradley, associate solicitor and gambling regulation expert at Poppleston Allen.

“But what many people may not realise is that the rules are very clear in that you can only sell physical tickets and all players must work in the same office – contests running across different office locations of the same company are not allowed.

“Therefore, if the pandemic has led to staff working from other offices or largely working from home, extra care needs to be taken when running a Grand National sweepstake.

“Organisers, whether employers or employees, must make sure they do not sell any tickets via email or over the phone. Any staff member who wants to play must visit the office and buy a physical ticket. If these rules aren’t followed, organisers and players would technically be involved in illegal gambling.”

Bradley says other rules to make sure a workplace sweepstake doesn’t land anyone in hot water with the Gambling Commission include the following:

  • All players must pay the same amount for a ticket;

  • Horses must be decided by chance, for example, drawn out of a hat;

  • No one can make a profit and all stakes must be returned as prizes, though an organiser can deduct administration costs for running the contest;

  • The sweepstake can only be advertised at the work premises; and

  • There must be a winner – the prize cannot be rolled over.

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