Sports club loses out on £40,000 as 'antiquated' rule forces lottery closure

14 Aug 2019 News

A sports club in Northern Ireland has said it lost out on £40,000 in fundraising income after it was forced to pull a lottery draw because the top prize of a three-bedroom house breached legislation.

Mayobridge Gaelic Athletic Club (GAC) announced the lottery draw in October 2018, with 8,000 tickets available at £100 each. Prizes included a house in Banbridge, County Down, worth £150,000.

A spokesperson from the club told Civil Society News all customers would be refunded by 31 October and that the withdrawal of the lottery raffle had cost £40,000 in lost fundraising income.

The funds from the lottery, which was due to close this week before being officially pulled on 24 July, were intended for extending the playing fields and facilites at the club.

Police receive complaints

Rosemary Magee, chair at Friends of Mayobridge GAC, and Mairead Rooney, chair at Mayobridge GAC, said in a statement that the committee had received notification from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) of a number of complaints about the draw and that if it continued the police would open an investigation. 

Magee and Rooney said they felt the rules were "antiquated" and that it was "unsuitable legislation that currently governs this area". 

The PSNI has not made clear what the complaints said or how the top prize of a house breached lottery legislation.

The chairs at Mayobridge GAC said: “We are adamant that the club has at all times acted appropriately, we are saddened to say that we can no longer operate the draw.”

A number of sports charities consulted on lotteries

A statement from the PSNI said it had met with a number of sporting associations including Sport NI in relation to the running of lottery competitions over the last few months and confirmed discussions with Mayobridge GAC about its A1 House Draw.

It said: "Our view was that this was a lottery competition with the result that it potentially breached a number of areas of the current legislation (Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Northern Ireland) Order 1985), although it is important to note that no formal investigation was ever commenced in this case.

"This has again highlighted that this legislation does not reflect modern society or technology and is in urgent need of update.

"However, we recognise that this was a genuine effort by the Friends of Mayobridge to raise funds."

It added: "The PSNI would encourage all those involved in running a lottery to examine [the Department for Communities' information leaflet, The Law on Lotteries in Northern Ireland] to ensure their competition complies with the current legislation."

Review of gambling laws underway

The Department for Communities, responsible for charity lotteries in Northern Ireland, website says: "The legislation is old and complex and has not kept pace with emerging technologies and other changes.

"A high-level, strategic review of gambling policy, practice and law is underway."

A spokesperson for the Department for Communities, 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.”

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