In a ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) a castle owner has been castigated for running an online raffle offering 'Orchardton Castle' (built in the 1880s, no less) to the winning raffle ticketholder - but subsequently awarding a cash prize to the winner instead.

In a story that is reminiscent of 'To the manor born', the real-life Mrs DeVere set up the contest selling raffle tickets for £5 each via the and Facebook websites. In return the winner was given the opportunity to "win the whole building freehold". The property had previously been valued (rather broadly) at between £1.5m and £2.5m - a somewhat princely sum - owing to its 17 bedrooms, 5 acres and views across Scottish countryside.

In order to avoid the Gambling Act 2005 problems that plagued some previous 'win-a-house' promotions, Mrs DeVere also offered various alternative free entry routes. This perhaps explains the disappointing tickets sales. Why shell out a fiver to win a castle when you can win one for free?

The raffle terms and conditions made it quite explicit that if insufficient entries were received the castle drawbridge would be raised and a cash prize offered in place of the property. Subsequently, winning tickets were awarded sums of £65,000, £7,000 and £5,000 - not quite the prime piece of Scottish real estate the winner had been expecting.

Following a complaint to the ASA, their investigation found that the prize offered was not a 'reasonable equivalent' to that originally offered, which is probably fair given the disparity in values. This therefore amounted to a breach of rule 8.15.1 of the CAP Code.

The ruling closely follows the decision taken by the ASA in the ruling (December 2017). In that promotion, a 15% reduction in the value of the cash prize compared to the value of the property originally offered was not a 'reasonable equivalent'. 

Although it seems that the promoter behaved with the probity that one would expect of a DeVere, the ruling serves as a reminder that the 'reasonable equivalent' principle when awarding prizes must be closely observed. Rules or T&Cs cannot be used as a mechanism to thwart this requirement.