SCATHING criticism has been levelled at a couple who withdrew their £3m luxury home from a raffle and then kept up to £640,000 worth of the ticket sales.
Mark and Sharon Beresford have defended their actions, claiming the money was spent on advertising, legal advice and their wages for promoting the competition.
The fall-out means the Beresfords will come under intense scrutiny when they file the accounts behind their Win a Mega Home contest with Companies House – which they legally have to.
Nearly 30,000 people paid £25 for the chance to win their luxury Huf Haus home in Ringwood and an Aston Martin car offered as a second prize, but that came nowhere near the 120,000 tickets the couple needed to sell to make it viable.
The Beresfords then withdrew the house and car as prizes and instead held a prize draw, with the winner receiving £110,070, which they said was 75% of the ticket sales proceeds minus promotion costs.
They hired a machine to select 100 tickets and from those, Christchurch MP Sir Christopher Chope picked out the winner, Carina Alcock from Christchurch.
But after the outcome was announced late last week, people flooded online pages with criticism, so much so the competition took down its pages on Twitter and Facebook.
They slammed the Beresfords, claiming the couple could have netted more than half-a-million pounds from the contest while keeping their home.
One poster said: “Wow…there were £750,000 worth of tickets sold but only a £110,000 prize? So the prize was only 27 times less than the £3m house we all entered for.”
Another added: “I would never ever have paid that much for a single shot at the final prize money. Quite honestly I think this competition has been run in an extremely peculiar way.”
Some said they had complained to the Gambling Commission, which would not say whether it had launched an investigation.
Mr Beresford released a statement defending the couple’s actions. He claimed most of the money was spent on advertising and obtaining legal advice so they could run the contest within the rules.
“We fully complied with all of the competition rules and relevant laws in order to launch the competition,” the 61-year-old millionaire business consultant said.
“We calculated the prize exactly as described in the terms and conditions, which all entrants had to accept. We have spent huge sums of money on advertising that failed to cover its costs.
“The costs incurred were very high and began in 2016 with extensive legal advice and opinions about the interpretation of the rules covering prize draw competitions.
“By the time the competition was launched, costs were already into six figures – to do this properly is neither cheap nor for the faint of heart.
“We will file our accounts in line with statutory requirements,” Mr Beresford added.
He was quoted in the Daily Mail as saying the couple had earned “just above minimum wage” from the competition since it launched. He reportedly maintained they had spent £450,000 on advertising and PR bills and another £187,000 in time.
A spokesman for the couple insisted: “Everything was legal and above board but unfortunately they just didn’t sell as many tickets as they’d have hoped.”
Legally raffles – or lotteries – which people pay to enter fall under gambling law, and can only be run by charities, hospices, air-ambulance services or not-for-profit causes.
They are regulated by the Gambling Commission, which ensures funds made from these types of competitions go to the causes they are intended for.
However, contests in which houses are offered as part of a free draw competition are not deemed to be forms of gambling.
On its advice page the Gambling Commission adds: “We do not approve or provide advice on how to run prize competitions or free draws.
“We monitor the boundary between lotteries, competitions and free draws to make sure that people who organise lotteries are properly licensed.
“If you are organising a prize competition or free draw it is your responsibility to ensure you are compliant with the law. If in doubt, you should seek legal advice.”
On Twitter, Jen Ross said on behalf of the Which? consumer magazine: “From a buyer’s perspective, it is not hard to see the appeal.
“But the number of failed house raffles far exceeds the number of successes.”
The Beresfords, who have three grown up children, wanted to sell their home to move to East Sussex.
Their property, called Avon Place and situated in the exclusive Avon Castle estate, is set in around an acre of private grounds and offers 7,000-sq ft of open plan living.
A distinctive glass and wood property built by the German Huf Haus company, it has fishing rights, seven reception rooms, a cinema, hi-tech kitchen and a bespoke-built barbecue house.