Unlicensed lotteries a lifeline in Lab West, resident says after RNC warning

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The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary has warned residents of Labrador West that illegal lotteries on social media are being monitored, but some people say they won’t stop.

Lotteries are not allowed to be run through social media, and only registered charities and non-profit organizations can apply for licenses.

Robyn Ayles says she knows the rules, but she also knows how much she can raise through social media for people in need, especially when time is of the essence.

“I just made one for a family that lost their home to a fire,” she told CBC News. “Two weeks before that, we did another one and paid a family over $10,000.”

In a Facebook post on Saturday, the RNC warned the public that holding an unauthorized lottery is a Criminal Code offense and asked that illegal lottery activity be reported to the police.

But life is expensive in Labrador, Ayles said, and the unforeseen costs can be debilitating. People often have to travel for medical appointments, and one-way flights can cost anywhere from $700 to over $1,000 on short notice. In many cases, people are stepping in to organize community 50-50 raffles, often via social media.

Ayles said there was little time left to find a charity or nonprofit to come on board and apply for a license. In these cases, social media lotteries have become a lifeline for people in crisis, she said.

“It’s so sad that it has to come to this for people to get help,” Ayles said.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary says it monitors social media lotteries in Labrador West. (Radio Canada)

Some lotteries in Labrador West have upped the ante in recent months. A social media scroll shows people auctioning off their own items — choosing to sell $10 tickets on a jacket to 30 people rather than listing it for $300, for example. In some cases, people have auctioned off recreational vehicles, and even a cabin.

Ayles said these examples should not cause police to interrupt the work of local fundraisers. As such, she has no intention of heeding the RNC’s warning.

“If I’m dragged into court and questioned, and God forbid, fined or whatever, I’m gonna stand up proud and say, ‘Hey, I helped Bobby Joe down the road to going to St. John’s for her appointment. ‘ It’s not going to hold me back. Absolutely not.”

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