New Zealand Law Society - Raffles are lottery games and regulated, says Internal Affairs

Raffles are lottery games and regulated, says Internal Affairs

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Many people don't realise that raffles and sweepstakes are considered "lottery" games under the Gambling Act 2003, says the Department of Internal Affairs.

The Deputy Director of Gambling Regulations, Charlotte Stanley, says while it's not illegal to run a raffle, there are a few rules that some people may not be aware of.

“The biggest mistakes people make are raffling something that’s worth a lot of money and running the raffle online. If the prize is worth more than $5,000 you need a licence and the money raised needs to go to an authorised charitable purpose," she says.

“While this may sound like unnecessary red tape, the rules around gambling are there to ensure that gambling in New Zealand – including raffles – is fair, well-run and any potential harm is minimised. It also means money goes back to the community. Every year, nearly $750,000,000 is returned to the community through grants and other fundraising.

“As a modern regulator, we want people to understand what they can and can’t do and would rather educate people about raffles than simply prosecute everyone who breaks the law by mistake."

A quick guide to the rules

You can run a workplace or club raffle, like a Melbourne Cup sweepstake or meat pack raffle, if the retail value of the prize is under $500 and all the ticket money goes towards prizes.

Otherwise, all proceeds must go to an authorised charitable purpose.

If your raffle has a retail value of more than $5,000, you need to apply for a licence from the Department of Internal Affairs, and meet a number of criteria. 

There are some things that can’t be offered as prizes such as alcohol, weapons and taonga tuturu (an object more than 50 years old that relates to Mâori culture, history or society, and was manufactured, modified, used, or brought into New Zealand by Mâori).

The person conducting the raffle can’t take a cut of the money raised by the raffle.

Online gambling, including raffles, are prohibited. This means that raffle tickets can’t be sold on websites like Trade Me, Facebook or over the phone. The exceptions are gambling through the authorised Lotto and TAB websites.