Online raffles? Can you tell the difference between ones that are legal or illegal?

To be legal, gambling must be licensed.

The Criminal Code (Canada) prescribes who can operate gambling activities and how gambling can be offered. Gambling activities are allowed to be conducted by a provincial government, or charitable or religious organizations that have a licence. The Criminal Code (Canada) also sets rules for how computers and the internet can be used for gambling activities.

Individuals are only eligible to fundraise through one-time raffles held during a social occasion. Most Manitobans are familiar with this type of raffle through the longstanding tradition of socials. One-time raffles require a social occasion raffle licence from the LGCA and cannot be done online or on social media.

Raffle tickets aren’t gambling . . . or are they?

Buying raffle tickets feels very different than going to a casino or playing VLTs but raffles actually are gambling.

Raffles are a way for charitable and religious organizations to raise money. Although some people think of buying a raffle ticket as making a donation with the added opportunity to win something, it is still gambling.

Any activity that has a cost to play and a chance to win a prize is gambling.

The same goes for bingos, 50/50s and chase the card draws. If you have to pay for a chance to win a prize, it is gambling.

How to protect yourself from illegal online raffles.

If you are invited to buy an entry for an online raffle or bingo, look to see who is operating it. If it is an individual, it is likely illegal. Legal raffles and bingos must be organized by a charitable organization or religious group, and be licensed.

Illegal gambling is not regulated or licensed. In other words, no one is making sure the game is fair or that all players have a chance to win. The game could even be rigged so you have no chance of winning.

How to tell if a raffle or bingo is legal?

Licensed raffles and bingos must have their licence number in their advertising (e.g. LGCA-xxxxRF or LGCA-xxxxBI).

Charitable and religious organizations may advertise raffles on their social media page but provide a link to a licensed gaming service provider’s website where raffle tickets may be purchased. The licence number for their raffle will be shown on the page offering the tickets.

You also can ask to see the organization’s licence. In addition to the LGCA, some municipalities issue gaming event licences and First Nation gaming commissions licence on-reserve events. Licensed organizations will be able to show you their licence even if it was obtained from a municipality or First Nation gaming commission.

    What else can you look for?

    Most raffles on a social media page are not legal.

    Some examples are:
    •   A friend setting up a 50/50 on social media to help pay their bills or cover the cost of a vacation.
    •   A person who operates a home-based or multi-level marketing business, offers chances to win a prize based on how much money you spend on their products.
    •   Someone offering spots in a chase the card draw or squares in a bingo game for the chance to win money or merchandise.

    The social media pages will include posts of photos to give the appearance that the draw is legitimate. They might even include videos of the draw being done by a person or a random number generator app. Regardless, these online raffles on social media are illegal and have no oversight for fairness.

    If you are a charitable or religious organization that needs a raffle licence or you are an individual planning a social occasion where you want to hold a one-time raffle, visit MyLGCA for more information. You can apply for your licence on MyLGCA too!

    If you suspect someone is operating illegal online gambling.

    The LGCA is the provincial body that oversees licensed gambling activities and provides public education about gaming and licensing. However, our organization does not have the authority to remove posts from social media. We can advise an owner and/or administrator of a page that they are breaching the Criminal Code (Canada) and request that they remove the page or post.

    To enable the LGCA to do this, please provide us with the contact information of the owner and/or administrator of the page by using our Contact Us form and selecting "Complaint". Keep screen shots of the gaming activity as we may request that you to provide them to us.