What are e-raffles?

How do they work?

E-raffles are an exciting new form of charitable fundraising that is being licensed by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.  They’re a modern version of traditional paper raffles – including 50/50, fixed-prize and “Catch the Ace” draws.  As with other types of raffles, there is no cap on the prize levels that can be reached and using electronic means, charities may be able to reach more people and raise more money than traditional paper raffles.

 

There are two main types of e-raffle technology that can replace traditional paper raffle tickets: In-person raffles (where volunteers sell tickets in approved locations using hand-held point-of-sale (“POS”) units) and Online raffles.

Here's how they work...

How in-person e-raffles work

 

A traditional charity 50/50 draw at a fundraising event like a youth sporting event, fall fair, fundraising dinner, golf tournament, a hospital lobby involves volunteers with rolls of paper tickets and aprons to hold the cash.

 

An e-raffle uses hand-held technology (hardware and software solution) provided by an AGCO-registered e-raffle supplier to do the same thing.

 

Charity volunteers and/or staff sell tickets through hand-held point-of-sale (POS) units that look like tablets.  Once a sale is made, a ticket is printed out on a small thermal printer that the volunteer wears on their waist.

 

Every transaction is recorded and tracked in real time and the prize amount accumulates in real time too on in-venue displays as well as on the raffle POS devices.

 

Instead of drawing a paper ticket from a drum, a random number generator selects the winning number. 

 

A charity “raffle event manager” (a charity volunteer or staff person) is responsible for overseeing the e-raffle – managing the event software, monitoring volunteers, tracking sales, counting receipts, and looking after the equipment.  The charity raffle event manager is responsible for the security of the process, cash counting, financial management, and signing-out/securely storing raffle equipment.

 

How online e-raffles work

 

All of the action takes place online.  Charities can develop and use their own online e-raffle software solution once approved by the AGCO or can contract with a third-party e-raffle Supplier who will provide an AGCO-approved online solution.    

 

If you are using an e-raffle supplier, they will typically work with you to set up an e-raffle website, through their own proprietary web portal.  The website can be customized to your organization, including graphics, messages, and ticket look, bundling and prices.   

 

Your raffle event manager has secure, password protected access to schedule and create raffle events, including determining the duration of the e-raffle and ticket prices.

 

Once the raffle is “live”, customers visit your organization’s e-raffle website through their desktop, tablet or phone and enter their personal and credit card payment information to make a purchase.  For each purchase, they receive an email with an electronic or SMS (text to cell phone) receipt that includes their raffle ticket numbers.   

 

Customers can periodically visit the website to check on the prize amount or you can send them regular update emails and texts as the prize grows.

  

Where e-raffles can take place

 

Tickets can be sold by from multiple locations at the same time.  Local charities are limited to locations in communities where they deliver services.  Provincial charities can sell tickets across the province.  For in-person e-raffles, you will need to be specific about how many locations and where they are in your application to the AGCO.  For online e-raffles, your e-supplier can help you set it up to limited (or “geo-fenced”) to a specific area, like your town, county, or service area.

 

Combining in-person/online e-raffles

 

The AGCO rules allow you to combine in-person and online.  For example, you could conduct a 3-month long online raffle and during that time, also sell tickets using hand-held units at approved locations and at different times – for example, a fundraising dinner, a golf tournament, or from your hospital lobby.

  

Prizes

 

Prizing is flexible, including 50/50 draws, fixed-prize draws, and Catch the Ace.  For 50/50 draws, the winner of the main prize draw must receive 50 percent of ticket sales.

 

You can also “seed” the prize board with additional cash or merchandise prizes so that you’re starting with prizes already being available (rather than wait for the main prize to grow from $0).  You can also offer “early bird” and consolation prizes to make the event more interesting for customers.

 

Seeded prizes must be paid for from the charity’s half of the ticket sales, or they can also be donated by sponsors – and those sponsor’s logos can appear in marketing material, on printed raffle tickets, and on your e-raffle website. 

 

Also, your e-raffle supplier is allowed to guarantee a minimum prize or minimum amount to your charity, or both. 

  

Ticket prices and configurations

 

As the charity licensee, it is your responsibility to decide on ticket prices and configurations and they are completely customizable.  For example, you can offer 1 for $5, 3 for $10 and 20 for $20.  Or, even 100 for $20. 

 

Customers can buy as many entries as they want from the volunteer.  But instead of printing out each individual ticket, the customer receives a single printed receipt that includes all of their ticket numbers.

 

Marketing/awareness - really important

 

Charities are responsible for marketing related to their e-raffle and are allowed to use a third-party marketing service to assist (your supplier cannot provide this service).  Especially for online raffles, effective marketing is the key to success.  For example, if you don’t have a large database of social media and email contacts, you may have challenges with marketing your online e-raffle.  For in-person e-raffles, it will be important to display the accumulating jackpot in as many locations as possible to create a call to action and generate player excitement.

 

All marketing materials must comply with AGCO requirements, including related to Responsible Gambling (RG).  The details on RG requirements are in the AGCO E-Raffle Operational Terms and Conditions but some of the key points are:

  • No sales to minors or intoxicated persons.

  • Marketing and advertising materials can’t:

    • Appeal primarily to minors or appear in locations that are primarily youth oriented

    • Use people who are or appear to be minors – except if you are showing that the beneficiaries of the fundraising are minors

    • Imply that the chances of winning increase the more one plays or spends

    • Mislead or imply that buying a raffle ticket is required for social acceptance, personal success, or to resolve economic, social or personal problems

    • Encourage purchases of tickets as a means of recovering past gambling or other financial losses

 

Also, at a minimum the ConnexOntario Help Line phone number and website address must appear on tickets, on any other material that is distributed to players, and on your charity’s website if that site includes information about the e-raffle.

How long an e-raffle can run

 

Charities have lots of flexibility to decide how long an e-raffle will run.  

 

In-person and online e-raffles can last a few hours, a whole day, a weekend, a week or even months.  Sales can take place every day/all day or more occasionally.   You’ll be asked for this information in your licence application. 

 

Here’s an example.  A charity that has its own venue – a hospital for example – could decide to hold a one-month raffle.  Charity volunteers could sell tickets using hand-held POS devices in the main lobby and gift shop every day for a few hours, with the prize building over the course of the month and the draw taking place at the end of the month. 

  

Customer payment options

 

For hand-held/in-person e-raffles, charities may decide to accept cash, credit, or debit.  For credit and debit, your e-raffle supplier can advise on how to do this, including through a third-party financial services provider.    Third-party electronic payment options involve additional contracts and fees, but so far are proving to be the most effective approach.

 

For online e-raffles, players pay with credit cards or other secure e-transfer means. 

 

Subscription-based e-raffles are not permitted.

 

E-raffle expenses

 

The AGCO has not set limits on e-raffle expenses.  All expenses must be reasonable and directly related to the management and conduct of the raffle.

 

AGCO inspections and notifications

 

Your raffle event might be inspected by the AGCO at any time.  The Inspector will need to have physical access to verify the raffle – for example, to inspect the devices or survey the premises to ensure sales are taking place in the approved locations. 

 

Here’s a list provided by the AGCO of the kinds of things an Inspector could look for:

  • Your e-raffle licence is available to the public

  • Raffle operators are knowledgeable of the Terms and Conditions

  • Proof that your e-raffle solution has been approved by the AGCO

  • Your AGCO-approved Rules of Play are made available to all ticket purchasers

  • Ticket sales open and close according to the lottery licence

  • Advertising and marketing materials meet all AGCO requirements

  • Draw results are confirmed

  • You are not selling to minors under 18 years of age

  • Raffle personnel are knowledgeable of how to direct customers to problem gambling services in Ontario at ConnexOntario (the Ontario Government’s help service for addictions

 

In addition, certain types of issues or problems with your raffle have to be reported to the AGCO within 24 hours of occurring.  The AGCO provides a “notification matrix” for you to use.

Reporting is required for things like:

  • A suspected problem with the raffle system that could affect the integrity of the raffle

  • Any suspicious behaviour or cheating at play

  • Any changes to the raffle operating system or option changes, function, or price changes.

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While most of the information in this website is about e-raffles, you don’t actually have to hold an e-raffle to take advantage of the new rules.  For example:

 

  • If your charity wants to hold a paper-based draw, you can now sell your tickets electronically. That means customers could order and pay for their tickets online and still receive them in the mail.
     

  • If your charity has a staff lottery where tickets are sold through payroll deduction, the administration of those sales can now be electronic.