Further to the combined enforcement action by the Gambling Commission and the Organised Crime Divisions of two police forces against individuals organising illegal lotteries on Facebook groups, (see my article in February here), Cleveland police economic crime officers have secured an order for the forfeiture of £140,000 seized from the bank account of one of the individuals identified as running raffles and competitions for private gain.
A hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 resulted in Middlesbrough magistrates’ ordering that an unnamed individual from Middlesbrough should forfeit the funds the police seized from his bank account.
The case highlights the need for specialist legal advice to be taken on complying in full with the provisions in the Gambling Act 2005 that provide for an exemption to holding a gambling licence by offering a genuine choice of entering for free as against paying to enter. Offering that some of the proceeds will be donated to charity or good causes does not make the product a lawful one as such promotions are still run for commercial gain.
In the financial year 2020/21 the Gambling Commission reported almost 400 illegal lotteries to Facebook and almost all were removed by Facebook. Most involved raffles to win high-value goods and the Commission reported that the prizes offered are increasing in value and becoming more diverse. As a criminal activity, the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 enables police and partner enforcement agencies to confiscate cash, including money held in bank accounts and other physical assets gained through illegal means.
Illegal lotteries, including those taking place through social media channels, will continue to be a focus for our enforcement work as we link up closely with police forces and platforms like Facebook to pinpoint not only the activity, but those behind it and those who are breaching gambling rules and social media standards.