Pub and club landlords in the UK, as well as some shops, have been warned by the UK Gambling Commission to stop selling lottery tickets via vending machines.
Mainly prevalent throughout Kent and the Southeast of England, lottery ticket vending machines (LTVMs) have been installed in some public areas that require no skill from the player but give a bonus to the landlord.
What are the rules about lottery tickets?
The selling of lottery tickets in locations such as pubs, clubs, and shops that aren’t regulated by the UK Gambling Commission is surprisingly okay, as long as the tickets have a social cause, charity, or other non-profit behind them and the landlords don’t make any cash.
Across the Southeast UK, vending machines have been installed that do offer commercial gain, which does go against the commission’s instructions.
The regulator said that licensees need to take care before agreeing to place ticket vending machines on their venues at the suggestion of machine suppliers.
“To offer lottery ticket vending machines suggesting that the profits can be used for commercial gain is incorrect and harmful to charities and other ‘good causes’ who promote lotteries to fund their work,” the commission said on the subject.
What’s the problem?
The problem is mostly the training of staff, who won’t have been supported in spotting vulnerable users, checking IDs, or any of the practicalities which come with running a machine.
And, of course, there’s that golden rule that pub landlords, shop owners, or any local business shouldn’t be making a profit from their customers’ gambling without holding an operator’s license.
“Under the Gambling Act, lotteries are the preserve of charities and other good causes – they cannot be promoted for private or commercial gain,” a Commission spokesman said.
“To offer LTVMs suggesting that the profits can be used for commercial gain is incorrect and harmful to charities and other ‘good causes’ who promote lotteries to fund their work.”
What can landlords offer?
On the other hand, social lotteries are on the up-and-up, and here there is a possibility that the landlord can be reimbursed by the society lottery for expenses.
“The intention of the lottery must be about raising funds for charity, not for commercial gain,” the hospitality trade group wrote to its members.
Separately, the UK government has launched a consultation on proposals that would increase society lottery top prizes to £500,000 ($663,205) and permit them to increase the amount of money they can raise each year from £10m ($13.26m) to £100m ($132.64m).
That consultation will also gauge opinion on a plan to allow the maximum amount that can be grossed on each draw to grow from £4m ($5.3m) to £5m ($6.6m).
What do the locals think?
Robert Wilson, who works for The Wheatsheaf pub near Maidstone, Kent, said that his boss is regularly approached by operators about putting an LTVM inside the pub. “It’s not just us, either; the village post office and supermarket have also been offered. But we know that we can get in serious trouble for doing so, although we have considered a social causes element. For now, though the plan is just to steer clear.”
Trade association UKHospitality also said it was important for landlords to follow the letter of the law when it comes to gambling opportunities. A spokesperson said, “We cannot stress the importance of complying with the laws that forbid commercial gain from some activities.”
Meanwhile, the Gambling Commission is asking licensees and landlords to work with them to identify those who offer LTVM’s and have even offered a confidential information intelligence hotline.
With this latest slap on the wrist, the Gambling Commission hopes to stamp out the small number of rogue operators offering LTVM’s, but in doing so, there is a risk they might stop the growing success of the smaller social enterprise lottery, which ultimately funds the communities it serves.