UK Gambling Commission Shuts Down Couple’s Charity Raffle for $758K Home

Posted on: January 4, 2019, 10:25h. 

Last updated on: January 4, 2019, 10:25h.

A North Yorkshire, England couple is being forced to refund thousands of £10 ($12.60) raffle tickets after being told by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) that the drawing for their £500,000 ($758,000) four-bedroom house was illegal.

UK Gambling Commission Raffle
Robert and Avril Smith were forced to end the raffle for their home after the UK Gambling Commission said the contest was illegal. (Images:

Robert and Avril Smith were hoping to sell 60,000 tickets and draw a winner on Thursday.

Cancer Research UK Loses Out

The Smiths said they had also hoped to raise £60,000 ($76,000) for a charity named Cancer Research UK. But just before Christmas, they were notified that they would not be allowed to continue the contest.

The Gambling Commission has deemed the competition a potential lottery and not a legal prize competition,” the couple wrote on the website promoting their raffle. “We understand the disappointment to you all and can only apologize sincerely as well as offer a full refund.”

The statement from the Smiths also expressed frustration with how the UKGC chose to handle the situation.

“[The decision came] after a period of over four months of silence from the Commission, despite being told of our competition on 30th July 2018,” they wrote. “In their leaflet published 03/18 the Commission states that although they will not approve or help develop such competitions they will act IMMEDIATELY on any obvious concerns. They did not contact us immediately in spite of the fact that it is their role to monitor such competitions.”

Home Still for Sale

The couple said there were many reasons for the sale, including a desire to move closer to their son. Avril Smith had fought cancer a decade earlier, and the family lost their daughter, Rachel, to Sudden Adult Death Syndrome — sometimes caused by a ventricular arrhythmia — in November 2015.

Instructions were available on the website for those seeking to receive refunds for their raffle tickets. According to Robert Smith, more than 6,000 individuals had purchased one or more entries, and he hoped to be able to refund each and every one of them.

“They will not lose out,” Smith told the UK’s Guardian news site. “The only losers are me, my wife and Cancer Research.”

According to the statement on the contest website, the house is still for sale, with the couple saying they are “open to offers to purchase.” The home is said to have a hot tub, a heated outdoor pool, a log cabin, and an orangery (a greenhouse devoted to growing orange trees).

According to the Daily Mail, the Smiths had initially put the house on the market two years earlier, but stopped looking for a buyer after Robert had to have surgery for his hip and knee. The idea for the raffle came from another son, Matthew.

Raffle Rule Kerfluffle

In the UK, raffles are legal if they benefit a charity or a not-for-profit organization, but according to the Commission, they “cannot be run for commercial purposes or private gain.”

However, there are ways around such laws, such as adding an element of competition in which participants must prove their skill or knowledge. Many drawings do this by adding a simple question that must be answered on the raffle ticket in order to be eligible to win a prize.

If organizers are unsure about the legality of a lottery or raffle, the Gambling Commission suggests seeking independent legal advice on the issue. However, the Smiths say that they did just that and were told their raffle was legal under UK law, despite the Commission later determining that the opposite was true.