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The festive season is a time of joy, celebration, and giving. It is also a time when many organisations, charities, and communities host Christmas fairs to raise funds for various causes. One of the most popular fundraising activities at these events is the organisation of raffles and tombolas. However, it is essential to understand the rules and regulations surrounding these activities to ensure they are conducted legally and ethically.

This article will provide a comprehensive guide to organising raffles and tombolas at Christmas fairs, focusing on the rules that must be adhered to in the UK.

Understanding Raffles and Tombolas

Before delving into the rules, it is crucial to understand what raffles and tombolas are.

What is a raffle?

A raffle is a type of lottery where participants buy tickets with a chance of winning a prize. Each ticket is associated with a unique number, and the winners are determined by drawing numbers randomly.

What is a tombola?

Tombola is a game of chance where participants draw tickets from a revolving drum or a container. The tickets are usually marked with numbers, and the prizes are awarded to those who draw specific numbers.

The Rules for Organising Raffles and Tombolas

  • Licensing and Permissions – In the UK, small raffles and tombolas that are part of a larger event, like a Christmas fair, do not usually require a licence. However, if the raffle is the main event or if tickets are sold to the public in advance, a licence from the local authority may be required. It is always advisable to check with your local council to ensure you are operating within the law.
  • Ticket Sales – Raffle tickets should usually only be sold at the event and not in advance. The draw should also take place during the event. For tombolas, participants can draw tickets at any time during the event.
  • Prizes – The total value of the prizes offered in a raffle or tombola should not exceed £500. If the prizes are donated, there is no limit to their value. However, cash prizes are usually not allowed in a tombola.
  • Age Restrictions – It is illegal to sell raffle or tombola tickets to anyone under the age of 16. It is the responsibility of the organisers to ensure this rule is adhered to.
  • Proceeds – The proceeds from the raffle or tombola must be used for a good cause, such as charity. It is not legal to use the proceeds for private gain.
  • Transparency – It is important to clearly display the rules of the raffle or tombola, including the price of tickets, the details of prizes, and the procedure for drawing winners. This ensures transparency and fairness in the process.
  • Record Keeping – Organisers must keep a record of the total amount raised, the costs incurred, and how the proceeds were used. This is particularly important if the event is being held to raise funds for a charity.


Organising raffles and tombolas at Christmas fairs can be a fun and effective way to raise funds for a good cause. However, it is crucial to understand and adhere to the rules to ensure the event is legal and ethical. By following the guidelines outlined above, organisers can ensure their raffle or tombola is a success and contributes positively to the festive spirit of giving and celebration. Remember, the key to a successful raffle or tombola is careful planning, transparency, and adherence to the rules. So, as you plan your Christmas fair, keep these rules in mind and ensure your event is not only fun and festive but also legal and ethical.

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