Northern Ireland

Mayobridge GAA club forced to abandon house raffle

A copy of the ticket offering a chance to win a house
Image caption Friends of Mayobridge GAC hoped to have a chance to win a house

A County Down Gaelic football club has been forced to cancel a raffle for a new house following warnings it could risk prosecution.

Mayobridge GAC offered the three-bedroom house as the top prize in the fundraising lottery, which was £100 to enter.

The competition was launched in October 2018 and the winner was due to be announced in August.

But club officials have cancelled the draw, blaming "outdated" gambling laws.

Organisers had intended to develop a new pitch for young players through the proceeds of the lottery.

Rory McShane, solicitor for Mayobridge GAC, said the club was disappointed its fundraising efforts were "thwarted by legislation, which is totally outdated and not fit for purpose".

He said the club was advised by the PSNI, following a handful of complaints, that the lottery "offended legislation".

Gambling in Northern Ireland - other than the National Lottery - is regulated under the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries & Amusements (NI) Order 1985 ("the Order")

A review of the legislation was completed in 2012 and whilst the Northern Ireland executive agreed that the law should be reformed, it was never completed.

Mr McShane said those seeking a refund would be repaid.

"Let's hope people understand the club could not risk being prosecuted or individuals being prosecuted. This was putting individuals at risk of criminal prosecution," Mr McShane added.

Image copyright Lotus Homes
Image caption An image of the house that was due to be raffled in August

The PSNI confirmed it had offered advice to Mayobridge GAC about their house draw without launching a formal investigation.

"Our view was that this was a lottery competition with the result that it potentially breached a number of areas of the current legislation," a spokesperson said.

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

The spokesperson added that they also met sporting organisations across Northern Ireland, including Sport NI, in recent months to advise about running lottery competitions.

Ulster GAA has also called for the reform of "restrictive and outdated" legislation that had placed Mayobridge GAC at risk of prosecution.

A spokesman said current laws inhibited the development capability of many organisations, including those in sporting and charitable sectors.

He added: "There is a widespread view that the existing legislation governing lotteries is antiquated and has not been fit for purpose for many years.

"Ulster GAA is calling on our political representatives to make the reform of the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 an urgent priority as part of their ongoing programme for government negotiations."

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."

She added the Department recognised the need for reform of gambling legislation in Northern Ireland, but any change in the the law would be for an incoming minister to determine.

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