A sports club in Northern Ireland has been forced to cancel a major fundraising raffle to win a house following concerns over its legality.
The draw offered a chance to win a three-bedroom home worth £150,000 and other prizes including a new Honda CRV vehicle, £10,000 in cash and a Mediterranean cruise.
The raffle money was collected by specialist sports club fundraising company Klubfunder which has raised over £5 million for 700 clubs. A £100 fee was required to enter the raffle, with funds raised going towards extending playing fields and facilities at Mayobridge Gaelic Athletic Club (GAA).
It is understood the competition was pulled because the prizes exceeded the maximum level permitted under the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (NI) Order 1985. The competition, organised by Friends of Mayobridge GAC, had been running since October and was due to be drawn this month on August 17.
The organisers, Friends of Mayobridge GAC, said it was “with huge regret that we need to inform you that our planned A1 House Draw is not going to proceed”. The club has offered to refund ticket holders.
The PSNI confirmed to the BBC it had offered advice to Mayobridge GAC about their house draw without launching a formal investigation.
“Our view was that this was a lottery competition with the result that it potentially breached a number of areas of the current legislation,” a spokesperson said.
“This has again highlighted that this legislation does not reflect modern society or technology and is in urgent need of update.”
The spokesperson added that they also met sporting organisations across Northern Ireland, including Sport NI, in recent months to advise about running lottery competitions. Ulster Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) has also called for the reform of “restrictive and outdated” legislation that had placed Mayobridge GAC at risk of prosecution.
Risk of possible prosecution
If the draw had gone ahead, organisers could have been in breach of the order and faced possible prosecution. Rory McShane, solicitor for Mayobridge GAC, said the club was disappointed its fundraising efforts were “thwarted by legislation, which is totally outdated and not fit for purpose.”
Mr McShane’s view was echoed by the governing body of the GAA which called on political representatives to make the reform of the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 an urgent priority as part of their ongoing programme for government negotiations.
A spokesperson for the Department for Communities, which is responsible for charitable lotteries, said: “The Department recognises that the operation of a society lottery is an important means through which many charities, sporting clubs and other organisations raise funds.
“The Department recommends that any organisation seeking to establish a lottery should seek legal advice before moving forward,” the spokesperson said.
Neil Irwin, fundraising advisor and expert on charitable lotteries, said it is very unfortunate that Mayobridge GAC are unable to run a draw of this size in this way in Northern Ireland, especially considering the greater freedom in Britain.
“It will be more galling for them to know the widespread scale of society lotteries in NI that also potentially break the law but run everyday,” Mr Irwin said.
“We need the law to change urgently so hard working volunteers trying to keep their amateur clubs and charities going can use this fundraising tool to its fullest potential without the risk of investigation of prosecution,” he said.
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