Grand National office sweepstakes could be illegal if staff are working from home, solicitors warn

Traditional office sweepstakes could risk falling foul of gambling law if participants enter remotely

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Grand National office sweepstakes could actually be illegal if colleagues are working from home, according to licensing solicitors Poppleston Allen.

With this weekend’s race at Aintree attracting interest from racing and non-racing fans alike, it is typically one of the most popular events for an office sweepstake.

Before Covid, there was little risk involved in this as most UK employers tended to opt against a working-from-home model.

Rachael Blackmore on Minella Times at last year's National
Rachael Blackmore on Minella Times at last year's National
Grand National 2022 mapped
Grand National 2022 mapped

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

Richard Bradley, associate solicitor and gambling regulation expert, said: “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.

“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.”

Mr 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.