'We will award a winner:' Oilers 50/50 delayed to fix errors, offer refunds - InfoNews

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'We will award a winner:' Oilers 50/50 delayed to fix errors, offer refunds

A record-setting Edmonton Oilers 50/50 draw won't pick a winner for several more days as officials work out problems with the online raffle. Edmonton Oilers 50/50 draw reached 5.4 million dollars in its last draw, in Edmonton, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
August 10, 2020 - 1:00 PM

EDMONTON - A record-setting Edmonton Oilers 50/50 draw won't have a winner for several more days as officials work out problems with the online raffle.

The community foundation said all tickets for the Friday draw, which hit more than $15 million, remain valid. But Alberta fans who want to void any ticket purchases will have until noon Thursday to make those requests and get a refund before a final total is determined and a winning ticket is drawn.

"We do really, really thank everybody for purchasing tickets and their interest in this online raffle program," Natalie Minckler, executive director of the foundation, said in an interview Monday. "To say it's unprecedented is a complete understatement.

"We definitely apologize and are truly sorry for what people have experienced. But at the end of the day, we will award a winner."

Ascent Fundraising Solutions, which ran the online draw, said its servers were overwhelmed with requests to purchase tickets. At certain points, it said demand exceeded $100,000 in tickets per minute, causing slow loading times, geolocation errors and duplication of some orders.

Daniel Lewis, Ascent's chief executive officer, said he has never seen so much interest in a 50/50 raffle.

"The average day for Alberta lottery is about $3.4 million," he said. "We were taking in many, many orders of magnitude larger than that."

Lewis said the company worked to add server capacity for Friday's raffle, after a $5.4-million Oilers draw for Wednesday's hockey game broke a record and had to close early when it reached its maximum allowable ticket sales.

The previous record had been held by Toronto Raptors basketball fans when a 50/50 raffle reached $2 million during the 2019 NBA Finals, the year the team won the championship.

Lewis said staff were able to increase the capacity by 2 1/2 times for Friday's draw, then saw problems in other parts of the website.

"The fulfillment side also experienced errors due to that heavy volume," he said.

Fans complained on social media about not being able to get through the geolocation fence, despite living in Alberta, and getting charged multiple times for tickets.

Minckler said they expect the jackpot in Friday's draw will decrease after refunds are processed. They also want to make sure everyone who participated in the draw is satisfied before they pick the winning ticket.

"We have to get it right," she said.

Minckler said the foundation has raised more than $9.4 million with its first three 50/50 raffles as the Oilers tried to make it into the first round of NHL playoffs.

"Whatever happens with this one happens. But at the end of the day, we already closed three raffles and have generated a significant amount of money that will help support significant community efforts."

Half of the pot raised from the Oilers raffles goes to the foundation to support organizations focused on vulnerable populations in downtown Edmonton and youth sports throughout northern Alberta.

The Oilers didn't make it into the playoffs Friday when the team lost Game 4 of its best-of-five series against the Chicago Blackhawks.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 10, 2020

News from © The Canadian Press, 2020
The Canadian Press

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