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Some fans charged multiple times for Oilers 50/50 raffle, draw postponed

Last Updated Aug 9, 2020 at 8:25 am MST

EDMONTON – Frenzy over Friday’s Edmonton Oilers online 50/50 draw – with an estimated pot of more than $15 million – has turned into confusion, with many Albertans wanting answers.

Several people are saying they were charged multiple times when trying to buy raffle tickets on Friday, which could explain the massive, record-shattering pot.

In a release on Saturday, the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation acknowledged their “technology provider’s servers were overwhelmed with requests to purchase tickets,” which caused errors and duplication of orders.

“We are endeavouring to quickly resolve any and all customer issues and are in active dialogue with our partners and the gaming regulator, AGLC. This has led to a delay in picking the winning number as we take the needed time to respond to customer requests.”

The Oilers foundation say they hope to pick a winner soon.

Late Friday night, the foundation announced the 50/50 was closed in order to process transactions in the queue.

Earlier in the day the raffle’s server had difficulty handling growing demand for tickets across Alberta.

The foundation held its latest game-day raffle two days after it “shattered an all-time record” and had to close it early when the service provider reached maximum allowable ticket sales. Officials said the provider had increased its capacity by 2 1/2 times for Friday night’s draw.

The pot hit nearly $300,000 in its first hour-and-a-half on Friday. Ticket sales hit $2.3 million before the game even started, but many people reported on social media that they were having trouble getting through to buy tickets.

“I tried unsuccessfully, I would say, at least 50 times between my phone and my work computer,” said Oilers fan Samantha Fullerton. “Around 11:30 a.m., I finally thought I was getting through, but it blocked me, saying I was in an area that wasn’t valid.”

Oilers fan Jake Desroches, who lives an hour north of Edmonton, received the same error message and tried driving closer to Alberta’s capital.

“After about half an hour of trying or so, it came up with the ‘You are blocked due to your location’ message,” said Desroches. “I drove to Fort Saskatchewan to try again, and the same message popped up.”

“Whoever their service provider is selling the tickets really should have anticipated this,” said tech expert Dana DiTomaso. “For example, a business website not used to receiving tons of traffic, suddenly you’re being hugged by the internet and you don’t know what to do. So you crash.

“This happens a lot if something becomes popular on Reddit, or Oprah mentions it on her show. And then if you’re not ready, your site is going to die.”

The jackpot for Game 3 of the series on Wednesday grew to more than $5.4 million, with the lucky winner set to take home about $2.7 million. The prize has been claimed, but the winner’s name hasn’t been revealed.

Monday night’s raffle for Game 2 of the series beat the previous record for the largest sports raffle as the pot surpassed $3.2 million.

WATCH: 50/50 Fever Goes Beyond Oilers

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

Calgary Flames fans also upped their 50/50 game Thursday with a draw that brought in $1.79 million, up from about $300,000 in Tuesday’s game. Half of it goes to the winner and the other half goes to that team’s community foundation.

Natalie Minckler, executive director of the Oilers foundation, said its service provider for the online raffle has told them Wednesday’s $5.4-million draw was a world record.

She said she believes the 50/50 has captured the imaginations of Albertans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“At a time when we all really need something positive and fun to talk about, to think about, to discuss with our family and friends, I think that has become that outlet,” said Minckler.

“I think it’s really taken on a life of its own. People, once they see that pot growing and the opportunity to win, I think they just get caught up in the frenzy.”

The other half of the funds raised from the raffles go to the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation, which supports organizations focused on vulnerable populations in downtown Edmonton and youth sports throughout northern Alberta.