“Hey! I keep reading threads where people are saying these competitions are illegal!”

It is a myth perpetuated on the internet that there is a legal issue. There is only a legal problem if Promoters fail to do the adequate research and don’t take time investing in following the Gambling Commission’s guidelines.

There’s a certain sort of person who likes to go on forums, Facebook etc, and shout about competitions being illegal, with no background research whatsoever. Of course, everything you read on Facebook just has to be true, ha.

Thankfully, 99% of the fabulous public go ahead and do their own research, and that invariably accounts for why I spot a lot of lawyers among the entrants.

Bear in mind, this is a new venture type and people often resist innovation; that doesn’t make them correct in the daft things they say and the scare-mongering that goes on. People used to believe the earth was flat and man would never go to the moon.

Check the Gambling Commission guidelines; it will take an hour or so to read their amazingly helpful .pdf but it’s not rocket science…in fact, it is a pleasant read and well-written. I found it incredibly insightful and helpful.

So, here’s my email response to an enquirer this morning:


Hi Lucy,


There is a massive myth that a tiny percentage of readers (of online material) spread with regard to legality. These competitions are legal, and can be quite unproblematic (as Dunstan Low’s comp showed recently when it closed successfully with no interference from anywhere!) AS LONG AS they follow the rules and regs of the Gambling Commission.

Added to that, a modicum of good sense is also needed. For example, do we “only” want to fulfil the Gambling Commission requirements or do we add more safeguards… (which I did). I added a Hardship Refund in the Terms & Conditions, added disqualification for anyone trying to pass the answer to the Qualifying Question to anyone else, and the same for anyone trying to gain that answer from anyone else. These are a few examples only.

I have not only followed the rules but have gone over and above their rules, making my competition rather more difficult.

The main areas against which it’s decided if a competition is a legal Prize Competition or an illegal lottery, are the following:

– complexity of qualifying question – a certain % of would-be entrants must be deterred from entering because the task of skill or knowledge is too hard for them. This certainly applies as I am getting bombarded with emails asking for the answer! Plus…
It must offer free entries;
It must treat paid and free the same, all entrants being equal;
It must HAVE a qualifier, or another element of skill or knowledge in the first place; if it just puts people into a draw, or if it has a ridiculously easy question, it’s undoubtedly an illegal lottery.
Personally, I hate those “competitions” that have stupidly easy questions so I am all in favour! The truly tricky part is, your question has to be hard enough to deter a reasonable %, yet not so hard it alienates all the would-be participants. AND THE BIGGIE IS: YOU HAVE TO BE ABLE TO PROVE IT.
I did more than a month of quantitative research (have kept questionnaires for inspection) to check what % is effectively turned away by the qualifying question, and in my case, it comes out at a massive 32%–way over the requirements. I am also pestered daily by people, asking for the answer, which I will not give under any circumstances. If people cannot be bothered to do their own research, they are not going to be entering fairly. I even saw a competition promoter online giving away the answer to their Qualifier on a forum: now, THAT is illegal and brings all the rest of us into disrepute! Jeepers!
The Ts and Cs must be clear and present, and fair.

And any competition can be stopped for an inspection if it appears unfair, so fairness is a big issue too.

Warmest, and thanks.
Annie : )

My personal, un-called for views on why these competitions often fail:

Many promoters seem to put up a competition but still have ridiculously easy qualifying questions. This just defeats the object of having a question, looks daft and makes a mockery of the system and the rules.

The question MUST have a purpose. It is not just “a formality” as I saw a promoter say when they were handing out the answer to anyone who asked, ha; it has to DETER that vital %. So, these questions draw attention very early for the wrong reasons.

It’s also necessary to stay in touch and be contactable. There is a competition running that certainly seems legitimate to me, and which is following the Gambling Commission rules, but where the Promoter is under attack for their noticeable absence, trying to whack away a barrage of accusations every day.

That cannot be fun, is definitely stressful for them and I’ll wager (oops, not allowed to wager, ha) that this promoter is not trying to hoodwink anyone, but that they are absolutely overwhelmed by the entries, the admin and the flak. To be honest, there’s a lot of cyber-bullying going on in respect of that other competition and it’s horrid to see. It doesn’t show the nicer side of humanity.

If the Promoter of a competition fails to do enough research and develop systems that can cope with up to a million emails and a massive volume of entries, (given free entries, and all the messages that come by email and social media–and everyone wants an immediate answer!) then they will be overwhelmed within a day of opening their competition and will never catch up.

That doesn’t mean they are bad people; it is a learning curve. It’s only when you start to see thousands of messages a minute arriving, that you see what you set up, ha. In my case, I’m lucky, as I researched it long and hard and have paid high rates for back-end systems to automate and help, leaving me free to answer people 1-1.

So, promoters who fall silent are not trying to take your money and run necessarily; they are probably hiding under the duvet wondering how on earth to get control back.