Can my staff legally carry out a World Cup sweepstake?

  • Employment Law
James Potts - Legal Services Director at Peninsula

James Potts, Legal Services Director

(Last updated )

Many workplace sweepstakes ahead of the World Cup are likely to be illegal, says gambling law expert.

A World Cup sweepstake at work might seem like a bit of harmless fun until you become a culprit of illegal gambling. If the sweepstake is illegal, the promoter and organiser could face hefty fines or even imprisonment. And if your company approves an illegal sweepstake, you’ll be liable.

Workplace sweepstakes are ‘permitted private lotteries’ under the Gambling Act 2005. So, if you’re planning a sweepstake for this year’s FIFA World Cup, you’ll be fine to go ahead as long as you follow these rules…

1. You must keep the sweepstake in one location

You must keep your sweepstake in one location and only advertise it in that specific location. This means only people who work on the premises can enter the sweepstake.

If your company operates in multiple locations, you would need to have a separate sweepstake for each base.

2. Participants cannot take part remotely

If you have a hybrid or remote workforce, you won’t be able to sell tickets to them via email or over a phone call.

If your worker wants to participate, they’ll need to go to your workplace and buy a physical ticket in person. You will also have to do the draw on the premises. You cannot do it online.

3. Participants must all pay the same price for a ticket

When selling tickets, you’ll need to charge participants all the same price to enter the sweepstake.

4. Participants can’t delay payment for a ticket

Participants will have to pay for a ticket at the time they get one. You can’t allow them to pay for their ticket at a later date if they ask.

5. Tickets must be non-transferable

If someone decides they don’t want their ticket anymore or they’re not happy with their sweep, they can’t give their ticket to someone else.

They also won’t be able to roll the ticket over to another sweepstake.

6. Participants cannot choose their own teams

Participants will not be able to pick their own teams. It has to be by chance, like names drawn out of a hat.

7. The organiser can’t make a profit

Organisers of the sweepstake will need to make sure they don’t make any profit. You’ll need to use all proceeds for prizes and towards organising the sweepstake.

If you do make a profit, the organiser will need to either give this back to participants or to a charity or other good cause.

8. You can’t spend more than £500 on prizes in a charity sweepstake

If you want to use the sweepstake to raise money for charity, you won’t be able to spend more than £500 on prizes (but people can donate other prizes if they want to).

Also, the organiser will only be able to put a maximum of £100 from the proceeds towards organising the sweepstake. The rest will need to go to the nominated charity or good cause.

9. There has to be a winner

You must have a winner at the end of the sweepstake. You can’t roll over any prizes from one sweepstake to another.

10. Don’t forget these important HR considerations…

To prevent HR issues from spoiling the fun, you’ll need to:

  • Check your contracts for gambling clauses - they might forbid any form of gambling, which includes sweepstakes.
  • Explain the rules and prizes to participants - so everyone knows how it works and what is and isn’t acceptable).
  • Monitor comments - remind staff of your zero-tolerance to bullying, discrimination, and harassment to avoid the risk of claims and grievances.
  • Be mindful that not all staff may want to take part - especially if they’re struggling with their financial situation).
  • Be mindful of staff who do want to take part - don’t assume people don’t want to take part. For example, if you were to exclude females in the office due to misconceptions that they don’t watch football, you would be a risk of sex discrimination.

If you need help reviewing your contracts or managing staff challenges for your upcoming sweepstake, give your adviser a call today.

And if you’re not yet benefiting from unlimited HR support, call 0800 029 4384 for a free advice call with an expert.

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