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Raffle laws

Charitable lottery regulations in Ontario.

March 17, 2023

Ontario, like every province or territory in Canada, has its own set of rules and regulations governing lottery for charity. We’ve broken down Ontario’s charitable lottery regulations for you and done our best to explain a few of the trickier parts. If you’re planning on running a charitable lottery in Ontario and are wondering if, for example, you need a nonprofit raffle licence or you want to get familiar with the 50/50 draw rules in Ontario, we’re going to do our best to help. Before we get into the details, we just want to say that, yes you can use Zeffy’s zero fee fundraising platform to sell tickets online in Ontario. We’ve written down the steps for holding an online raffle, but you should keep reading before you get started.

What is a lottery?

Well, in classic Canadian style, the official definition varies ever so slightly from province to province. In Ontario, charitable and non-profit organizations’ lottery fundraising activities are regulated by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO)—and they define a lottery as:

… a gaming event or scheme that is conducted by a charitable or religious organization or a nonprofit group with charitable objects and purposes. The policies apply to raffles, break open ticket sales, charity bingo and one-time special occasion gaming events and bazaars run by these organizations.

In Ontario both Municipalities and the AGCO (the province of Ontario) are responsible for issuing charitable lottery licences to nonprofits.

Is your charity or nonprofit eligible for a charitable lottery licence?

In Ontario, eligible charity and nonprofit organizations may raise funds through provincially or municipally licensed lottery events, but how do you know if you’re eligible?

Well, to receive a lottery licence in Ontario, you must

  • have been in existence for at least one year,
  • have a place of business in Ontario and its purpose must serve the province of Ontario, and
  • have charitable objects and purposes that fall within one of the following:
  • the relief of poverty
  • the advancement of education
  • the advancement of religion
  • other charitable purposes beneficial to the community.

Registration under the federal Income Tax Act as a charitable organization does not mean your nonprofit will automatically be eligible for a lottery licence. And, you guessed it, eligibility is determined on a case-by-case basis.

If your nonprofit or charity only promotes the private interests of your members, you might not qualify. (Sports teams, unions or employee groups, social clubs, professional associations, political, government, lobbying or advocacy groups.)

How to get an Ontario charitable lottery licence.

First, read the first three chapters, and the chapter(s) related to the lotteries that interest you, of the Lottery Licensing Policy Manual.

Next, apply for a lottery licence from the AGCO if you’re planing:

  • Bingo, super jackpot bingo and progressive bingo events with total prizes over $5,500.
  • Raffle lotteries for total prizes over $50,000.
  • Electronic raffles. (A raffle is ‘electronic’ when there is use of computers to sell tickets, draw winners and distribute the prizes.)
  • Break open tickets sold by organizations with a provincial mandate.
  • Lotteries held in conjunction with another gaming event, including break open tickets at bingo events.

Smaller prized lotteries only require a municipal licence. (We found googling your municipality+charitable lottery licence was the best way to get the info you need.) But, if the raffle is electronic, you must be licensed through AGCO—regardless of the total value of the raffle prizes.

  • Bingo events, with prize boards of up to $5,500.
  • Media bingo events with prizes up to $5,500.
  • Break open tickets for local organizations.
  • Raffle lotteries for total prizes of $50,000 and under.
  • Bazaar lotteries which include: wheels of fortune with a maximum bet of $2.00, raffles not exceeding $500, and bingo events up to $500.

Lottery Licence Fees.

Charitable gaming fees vary but are usually around 1-3% of the total value of the prizes and must be paid to the AGCO when submitting the application.

What you’ll need to include in your application.

You’ll find a list of the documents you need to include with your application on the AGCO’s Electronic Raffles page. There’s nothing too surprising in the list, except that you need to include a sample ticket. For information on what to include on your ticket, you can visit the ticket requirements page.

We’ve whipped up an example of a ticket with all the info in the right places.

→ For more information, check out our guide on how to make raffle tickets.

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Online ticket sales for nonprofits in Ontario.

Ontario has an Electronic Raffle Regulatory Framework that allows eligible nonprofit or charitable organizations to be licensed to conduct and manage online raffles in Ontario.

Electronic (online) raffles involve the use of computers for the sale of tickets, the selection of winners and the distribution of prizes in a licensed charity raffle.

There’s a lot more useful info on the electronic raffles page and it’s surprisingly clear.

→ Want to learn how to sell raffle tickets effectively? Check out our guide!

Things to keep in mind when applying for a charity lottery in Ontario:

  • Send your application a minimum of 45 days (6 weeks) before the beginning of ticket sales if you are a first time applicant. You can send it 30 days in advance if you have applied before.
  • Follow the licensing policy manual and check the AGCO website for any updates.
  • The AGCO suggests gaming suppliers, but other online platforms, like Zeffy, might be exactly what you’re looking for. We are, after all, the only 100% free fundraising platform for nonprofits and have some pretty great how-to guides.
  • The seller (you) and buyers of the raffle tickets must both be physically located in Ontario during the sale. You can state this in the rules of your lottery.
  • You must have at least two members responsible for the lottery. They are responsible for preparing all documentation for the licence and representing the organization to the AGCO.
  • You must create a list of rules that are consistent with the terms and conditions for a raffle. It needs to be approved by AGCO and available to participants of the draw.
  • The lottery licence number must be on all communication pieces related to your lottery event.
  • The paperwork doesn’t stop once you get your licence:

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