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Organise a racing or casino night

A racing or casino night can be a great way to get people together for a night of games, while also raising funds. Take a look at our tips on how to organise your own racing or casino night.

Things to think about before you start

  • Venue – a school hall is ideal, not too big to lose the atmosphere but big enough to fit about 150 people comfortably around tables, leaving enough room to get up and move around. Also allow for a raffle prizes table. A second room for food distribution is ideal too.
  • How are you going to feed them? You could arrange for a fish & chip shop to deliver halfway through the evening – this involves minimum preparation and clearing up. You can offer a limited choice, fish, sausage or vegeburger for example, but charge everyone the same or you could ask people to bring picnics. If you decide to provide food please be aware of rules and regulations outlined by the Food Standards Agency.
  • Decide on the ticket price – this should cover supper, hall hire and hire of the racemaster for a racing night or gaming tables for a casino night. Try to aim for about £10 minimum.
  • Does the venue hold a liquor licence? If not, a temporary licence can be obtained from your local magistrates court or your local pub may do a mobile bar, but there will be cost implications for this. You could operate a ‘bring your own’ policy - people who aren’t paying for drinks will sometimes spend more on auctions/raffles.
  • Prizes - Participants are playing for prizes which you will need to organise prior to the event. For racing nights, try to arrange a small prize for seven races, something with a value of around £10 – try to get these donated.
  • Are you going to have a raffle? Start asking for prizes; you usually have more luck using personal contacts rather than ‘cold mailing’. If you have a really good first prize, consider getting a licence from your Community Fundraiser to sell the tickets prior to the event. You would then need to get tickets printed and ask friends and supporters to sell them for you.

Racing nights

  • Decide how many people will be in each group – ideally eight to ten people round each table. This way if you have 150 people in groups of 10, you only need to sell to 15 tables.
  • Try to sell all horses from the first seven races in the weeks preceding the event. Buyers can name their horse, and then you can produce a small programme with the named horses and their owners. The owner of the winning horse in each race is given the race prize. If you sell all the horses for £5 this will raise £280.
  • Seek sponsorship for each race (£10-£20) from local businesses. In return for the sponsorship they can name their race, and you can print their logo next to the race name in your programme. If you can get all 7 races sponsored this can raise between £70 and £140.

Casino nights

  • Book the gaming tables – this should be done at least four months in advance. Check your local yellow pages for entertainment companies running casino nights, these organisations will set up the tables and explain how to run the event. They can provide staff to run the betting but it is cheaper to provide your own and not difficult. The biggest decision is what tables to have, but the company will be able to advise you.

Preparation before the event

  • Produce a flyer – include details of the event, such as date, time, venue and what’s included in the price. Have a tear off slip at the bottom for booking tickets and requesting type of food. Advertise an arrival time at least half an hour before the event is due to begin – leave space for the stragglers.
  • Contact your local press to promote the event.
  • Contact your Community Fundraiser to advertise the event on their web page or in future CF Trust publications.
  • Produce tickets – entry by ticket only means you will know exactly how much food is required.  Contact your RFM for the CF Trust logo and charity number.
  • Book food – include some extras, just in case.
  • Produce a programme for the evening. Some people will need guidance as to how the evening will run, what to expect, when food is being served etc. For racing nights, aim to produce at least three per table for people to choose their horses from. Sometimes the race master will provide a master copy of these.
  • Produce table numbers and a rough plan of the room – it is always easier if you give groups somewhere to sit.
  • Ask friends to help – You will be far too busy making sure everyone is having a good time!!  For racing nights, you will need three for the tote, two to sell raffle tickets and draw the raffle, one to sell any horses not yet sold, and two to arrange the food. For casino nights, you could ask for help managing the gaming tables.

On the day

  • Arrive early to set up, meet people who are working on the night and arrange tables. For racing nights, you will need a table for raffle prizes, one for race prizes, two for the tote and one in the middle for the projector. Make sure everyone can see the area where the big screen will be.
  • Ensure there is plenty of room for people to move around.
  • Put table numbers on each of the tables, along with programmes.
  • Make sure the room and facilties, toilets etc, are well signed from the car park.
  • Decide who is making the announcements and what is being announced, i.e. why the event is happening, housekeeping rules, running order of the evening etc.
  • If you are using a PA system do a sound check so you know how the equipment works.
  • Be prepared for people arriving early; if you’re prepared you won’t panic and you will enjoy the evening. 
  • Ensure everyone who is helping to run the event knows what they are doing and who is the main co-ordinator.
  • Ensure the cash handling procedure puts no one at risk.

How it works

Racing nights

  • The betting works by people choosing the horse they wish to back and betting, often in 50p bets, but they can place as many bets as they choose. Around 30% of the funds betted are taken for the charity and the rest gets paid out in prizes. The race master usually works out the payouts for you. Ensure the cash handling procedure puts no one at risk.

  • Inform everybody that you are going to auction the horses in the last race. Suggest that they club together as a table, as there will only be eight chances to own. The winning horse owners get back half of all bids. For example – 10 people to a table, they all put in £5 and each horse is auctioned for £50; total auction money £400. The charity takes £200 and the winner gets £200.

  • From this, you can see how the profit can build up - £500 from selling the horses is a great start, add to this the raffle funds and the cash you make from the actual betting and up to £2,000 is almost easy!

Casino nights

  • At no point is real money involved in the gaming: participants are given chips as part of the ticket price, but they can buy more if they run out.

  • Once everyone has cashed in their chips, first prize is given to the person who won the most at the tables (then second and third if you have enough prizes). This way all money raised from sales of the chips goes towards the profit.

After the event

  • Pay the bills; the racemaster (for racing nights), the people running the tables (for casino nights), venue, food supplier etc.
  • Write to all those who supported the evening with prizes or donations, and let them know how much was raised.
  • Thank all the volunteers
  • Contact the local press and let them know how it went, send photos if they’re appropriate.
  • Bank the money.
  • Deliver any raffle prizes to those who can’t make the event.
  • Book a similar event for next year!

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