Lottery Licensing

What is “charitable gaming” and how is it regulated?

“Charitable gaming” refers to lottery schemes permitted by a licence under the Criminal Code of Canada. Typically these may include bingos, raffles, break open tickets, and bazaar gaming events held by charitable and religious organizations.

Charitable organizations are regulated by licensing policies and the terms and conditions of the licences issued by the province or municipalities under authority of an Order-in Council. The commercial sector of the charitable gaming industry is regulated by the Gaming Control Act, 1992 and accompanying Regulations.

What is a “lottery scheme”?

A “lottery scheme” may be defined as any scheme that has the following three components:

  • a prize;
  • a chance to win the prize; and
  • a consideration or fee.

Therefore, if money is paid or other consideration is given for a chance to win the prize then it is considered to be a lottery scheme.

However, there are many types of lottery schemes for which licences are not available. Promotional contests that are carried out by companies to promote products and increase sales cannot be licenced to operate a lottery because they are not charitable. For that reason, a company must ensure that the contest does not fall within the definition of a lottery scheme.

Below you will find answers to frequently asked questions including the types of organizations eligible for a lottery licence, what events are provincially licenced, what events are municipally licenced, and how the licencing process works.

Who can get a license to conduct a lottery event?

Canada’s Criminal Code permits charitable and religious organizations to conduct a lottery scheme to raise funds once a license is issued. Organizations must have a demonstrated charitable or religious mandate to qualify. Charitable refers to organizations which provide programs for:

  • relief of poverty;
  • advancement of education;
  • advancement of religion; and
  • other charitable purposes beneficial to the community.

To be considered eligible for a lottery license, each organization must:

  • Have been in existence for at least one (1) year before being considered eligible for lottery licenses;
  • Have provided charitable community services consistent with the primary objectives and purposes of the organization for at least one (1) year;
  • Have a place of business in Ontario;
  • Demonstrate that is established to provide charitable services in Ontario and use proceeds for objects or purposes which benefit Ontario residents; and
  • Assume full responsibility for the conduct and management of its lottery events.

The primary purposes of an organization are determined by considering:

  • The mandate of the organization as set out in its incorporation documents or documents stating the organization’s objects;
  • The objects of the organization as described in the license application; and
  • The services which have actually been provided by the organization to the community.

What types of charitable and religious organizations are eligible?

In order to be eligible to receive a lottery license, an organization must have charitable or religious objects that fall within one of the four categories:
a) The Relief of Poverty;
b) The Advancement of Religion;
c) The Advancement of Education;
d) Other Charitable Purposes Beneficial to the Community

(a) The Relief of Poverty

Organizations applying for a lottery license under this classification must prove that its programs and services assist those who are in financial need, distressed, suffering or experiencing social disadvantage, such as:

  • The homeless
  • Disabled Persons
  • Victims of Crime
  • The sick and dying

Examples of organizations that may be eligible:

  • Food Banks
  • Homeless Shelters
  • Organizations that offer meal programs

(b) The Advancement of Religion

Organizations applying for a lottery license under this classification must prove that its programs and services assist in the delivery of religious services and programs to the community including support of the destitute and sick, and interpreted to include the provision and maintenance of places of public worship. The activities must serve religious purposes for the public good in order to be considered charitable. Other activities that may be considered to advance religion include:

  • Organizing and providing religious services and guidance;
  • Performing pastoral and missionary work for residents of Ontario; and
  • Establishing and maintaining buildings for worship and other religious use.

Examples of organizations that may be eligible:

  • Churches
  • Missionary Organizations
  • Synagogues

(c) The Advancement of Education

Organizations applying for a lottery license under this classification must prove that its programs and services are geared toward scholastic or vocational training for individuals and that it will lead to a recognized diploma, degree or certificate.

Proceeds under this category cannot be used to fund core programs or services.

Education that forms part of the professional development of a person or group of people, such as training courses for teachers, lawyers, nurses, etc. are not an acceptable use of funds for educational purposes.

An organization that provides any type of program or curriculum that promotes racism, intolerance or violence is not eligible for lottery licensing.

Parent/teacher associations may be eligible for lottery licensing provided that they support the type of school that is eligible and are properly established as a charitable organization or non profit organization that has charitable objects. However, the school and its parent/teacher association may not both hold lottery licenses as only one related eligible organization may be licensed at any one time.

Note: The applicant organization must be the parent entity, i.e. the school itself and not a class or department within the school.

Examples of organizations that may be eligible:

  • Elementary and secondary public and Roman Catholic Schools that are recognized by the Ministry of Education;
  • Accredited colleges and universities;
  • Scholarship or Bursary Funds registered with Revenue Canada as a charitable organization.

(d) Other Charitable Purposes Beneficial to the Community

Organizations applying for a lottery license under this classification must prove that the organization’s activities provide a public benefit to a significant portion of the public and the proposed use of proceeds are consistent with the organizations mandate. Also, the organization must operate on a not-for profit basis and its purposes must include charitable or religious objects. An eligible organization may also have objects that are not charitable but those objects or purposes must be ancillary to the main charitable object.

Eligible organizations include those with mandates in:

  • Culture and the arts;
  • Health and welfare
  • Amateur sports organizations
  • Enhancement of youth
  • Enhancement of public safety
  • Community service organizations (service clubs)

Examples of organizations that may be eligible:

  • Theatre groups
  • Hospitals
  • 4-H Clubs, Boy Scouts
  • Lions Club

What types of organizations are not charitable for lottery licensing purposes?

An organization is considered ineligible for a lottery license if:

  • It is established as a profit making entity;
  • It does not have a charitable purpose or object;
  • It promotes private benefits to a restricted class of members;
  • It is established solely for the purpose of adult recreation;
  • It is established for the purpose of tourism or other activities that are purely economic in nature; or
  • It is a sub-group or auxiliary of an eligible organization that already has a license.

Types of organizations which are not considered charitable by the Province of Ontario for lottery licensing purposes are:

  • Social clubs;
  • Professional associations, unions, employee groups;
  • Elected representative groups including municipal, regional, provincial and federal governments;
  • Government ministries, agents or bodies;
  • Political lobby groups;
  • Political parties;
  • Adult hobby groups;
  • Organizations established solely for the purpose of fundraising;
  • Private sports clubs (e.g., golf, curling); and
  • Adult sports teams.
  • The above list is not intended to be exhaustive but to simply provide some examples of organizations that would not be eligible.

What is considered ineligible use of proceeds?

Proceeds from lottery licenses may not be used for the following:

  • Academic and sports awards and trophies;
  • Volunteer recognition
  • Fundraising activities, including wages for fundraiser and the cost of promotional materials;
  • The provision of services for which the organization receives government funding or which the organization is required by law to provide;
  • Legal Fees/costs incurred by the organization;
  • Accounting fees, except as provided for by the terms and conditions of the lottery license;
  • Out of pocket expense for volunteers to participate in the licensed lottery event, except as provided for by the terms and conditions of the lottery license.
  • The above list is not intended to be exhaustive but to simply provide some examples of ineligible use of proceeds.

What lottery schemes does the Province license?

The province licenses the following events:

  • Bingo events with prize boards of $5,500 or more;
  • Super Jackpot Bingo games;
  • Ticket raffle lotteries that have total prizes exceed $50,000;
  • Lotteries held in conjunction with another gaming event licensed by the provincial office including break open tickets at bingo events;
  • Provincial break open ticket lotteries;
  • All Social Gaming Events;
  • All lottery schemes conducted in unorganized territories, on Crown lands and in First Nation Communities; and
  • All lottery schemes at a designated Fair or Exhibition or at Public Place of Amusement.

What lottery schemes do municipalities license?

A municipality may issue licenses to conduct the following lottery events:

  • Bingo events with prize boards $5,500 and under;
  • Media bingo events;
  • Ticket raffle lotteries for total prized $50,000 and under;
  • All break open ticket lotteries not licensed by the provincial office; and
  • Bazaar Gaming Events.

How does my organization apply for a lottery license?

Determine what type of lottery scheme your organization intends to conduct, and:

  • Obtain the appropriate application form from the municipal office
  • Complete the form according to the instructions on the form and the policies or guide as set out for the lottery event.

Click here to be directed to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario’s website for more information.