Navigating Prize Promotions and Competitions in the UK: 9 Essential Guidelines

Prize promotion navigation compass

Running a prize promotion or competition can be an effective way to engage an audience, boost brand awareness, and generate excitement around a product or service. However, if you’re planning to run such a promotion in the UK, it’s crucial to navigate the legal landscape carefully. This blog post aims to provide a comprehensive guide to help you understand the key laws and guidelines governing prize promotions and competitions in the UK.

Understanding the Legal Framework

1. The Gambling Act 2005

The cornerstone of the UK’s regulations on prize promotions and competitions is the Gambling Act 2005. This act distinguishes between three types of activities: lotteries, prize competitions, and free draws.

  • Lotteries: These are based on chance, and participants must pay to enter. Lotteries are heavily regulated and require a license from the Gambling Commission.

  • Prize Competitions: These are skill-based contests where the outcome is determined by the participants’ abilities. Unlike lotteries, prize competitions do not require a license, provided they meet certain criteria.

  • Free Draws: These are promotions where entry is free, and winners are chosen randomly. Free draws are not as heavily regulated as lotteries but must still comply with specific guidelines.

2. The CAP Code

Prize promotion legal documents on desk
Photo by Romain Dancre on Unsplash

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code provides advertising guidelines to ensure promotions are conducted fairly and transparently. Key points include:

  • Transparency: Clearly state all the terms and conditions, including the entry method, closing date, and any restrictions on entry.

  • Fairness: Ensure the competition is conducted fairly and that all eligible entries have an equal chance of winning.

  • Winner Notification: Notify winners promptly and ensure they receive their prizes as advertised.

The full guide can be found here.

Essential Guidelines for Running a Prize Promotion or Competition

1. Define the Type of Promotion

First, decide whether your prize promotion is a lottery, a prize competition, or a free draw. This distinction will determine the regulatory requirements you need to follow.

2. Decide on the Mechanic

There are a few options here, but the two most common choices are either a prize draw or a winning moment. Prize draws collate entries over a certain period of time, and are then sent to an independant adjudicator to hold the winner selection process, and the winner is then notified. Winning moments are instant, an independant adjudicator will randomly pre-determine a set amount of ‘moments’ during a promotional period, and should a consumer enter at that time (or the closest time to it) they will be informed right away if they are a winner.

There are also various options you have when it comes to exactly how a consumer will enter the prize promotion, whether it’s a text to win, an online entry form or even a social media competition, decide which route would work best for your target audience.

3. Create Clear and Comprehensive Terms and Conditions

Your terms and conditions should cover:

  • Entry Requirements: Who is eligible to enter (e.g. age, location restrictions, maximum amount of entries).
  • How to Enter: The steps participants need to take to enter the promotion, including any proof of purchases (if required).
  • Prize Details: The nature, value, and number of prizes. Try and be as specific as possible, and offer aspirational prizes that are targeted to your audience.
  • Opening and Closing Date: The opening date/time and deadline for entries.
  • Winner Selection: How and when winners will be chosen and notified.
  • Privacy Policy: How participants’ data will be used and protected. It’s always good to have consumers tick they agree to the privacy policy before entering (where possible).

4. Ensure a Free Entry Route (If Applicable)

For prize promotions, you must provide a free entry route alongside any paid entry method. This ensures compliance with the Gambling Act 2005 and avoids your promotion being classified as an illegal lottery.

5. Obtain Necessary Permissions

If your prize promotion involves the use of intellectual property (e.g., brand names, logos), ensure you have the necessary permissions to use them. It can take a while to obtain this, so planning ahead is key.

6. Promote Transparently

All promotional materials should clearly communicate key information about the competition, including how to enter, the nature of the prize, and any significant terms and conditions.

7. Handle Data Responsibly

Comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by obtaining participants’ consent to use their data, storing it securely, and only using it for the purposes stated in your terms and conditions. If you want to use data for marketing purposes down the line, you have to provide an option to opt out.

Prize promotion distribution courier
Photo by RoseBox on Unsplash

8. Announce Winners and Distribute Prizes Promptly

Notify winners as per the timeline specified in your terms and conditions and ensure they receive their prizes without unnecessary delays. If you need winners to verify their win or send in delivery details, it’s always a good idea to give a deadline of when this needs to be provided by.

9. Keep Records

Maintain clear records of the prize promotion, including entries received, winner selection processes, and prize distribution. Winners lists are often requested by consumers, so you will need to keep this on file for a period of time (which also needs to be outlined within the terms and conditions).


Running a prize promotion or competition in the UK can be a highly effective marketing strategy, but it requires careful planning and adherence to relevant laws and guidelines. By understanding the distinctions between lotteries, prize competitions, and free draws, and by following best practices for transparency, fairness, and data protection, you can ensure your promotion is both successful and compliant.

Embark on your prize promotion journey with confidence when you partner with us. Get in touch today to find out how we can help to support your next campaign or promotion.