July 25, 2014 3:11 pm

‘We were just overwhelmed': Eskimos official on 50/50 response

Watch above: Many frustrated fans stormed out of Commonwealth Stadium after spending part of the game waiting for 50/50 tickets that some didn’t even get to buy. Laurel Gregory reports.

EDMONTON — A 20-year-old Edmonton man who attended Thursday night’s Eskimos game is $348,534 richer, after winning the highly anticipated 50/50 draw.

The winner came to the Eskimos’ office first thing Friday morning. An official cheque presentation has been scheduled for Tuesday.

READ MORE: Meet the 20-year-old who won the Eskimos’ 50/50 jackpot 

Last night’s win amounts to more than half of the total amount handed out last season. In 2013, $678,353 was awarded to 10 different winners.

It’s also more than most CFL players will make in a year.

Just over 40,000 people attended the game at Commonwealth Stadium, and many stood in long lines for a chance to get their hands on the enormous prize.


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Edmonton police officers were on hand to control crowds, as there were some frustrated fans who weren’t able to buy a ticket before sales were cut off.

Several people said they stood in line for more than an hour to get tickets for the jackpot, which hit $250,000 by the middle of the second quarter.

READ MORE: Where’s the other half of the Eskimos’ 50/50 jackpot going?

Many fans were less than impressed with the wait time.

“Ridiculous. Epic fail. Epic fail,” said Eskimos’ fan Daniel Gilchrist as he finally reached the front of a line. “I’ve already invested more than an hour in line, you’ve gotta go through with it.”

“I bought $260 worth of tickets,” said Donny, an Esks fan.

“My wife went through one lineup… and she was an hour.”

WATCH: Eskimos’ VP of Marketing speaks about 50/50 draw complaints and the big winner

The Eskimos didn’t expect such huge interest in the 50/50.

“I think it was the perfect storm of 50/50 and the football game,” said Allan Watt, the team’s vice president of marketing.

“We anticipated that, when the pot started at $72,000, that we might get to $150,000.

“Well, with 10 minutes after the gates are open, it’s already $100,000 and before the game started it was $150,000 and very soon after it was $200,000.

“We thought for sure that we could handle $200,000 over the first half of the game and into the third quarter, which is what our licence allows us to do… We had no idea. We’re at the maximum number of sellers, the maximum number of units,” said Watt.

“We were just overwhelmed by the maximum number of potential buyers.”

“Not having ever seen anything like this before, you just say to yourself ‘we just somehow have to gut it out tonight.’”

The football team said due to the massive volume of tickets, it was unable to draw the winning 50/50 number during the game. It was announced early Friday morning, on social media and through a post on the team’s website.

“Clearly when we had a situation like this, it just, it was a runaway,” said Watt.

“If we ever get in that position again, we need to be a little bit more robust in how we handle that,” he added.

The 50/50 jackpot began at $71,732 Thursday night. The unclaimed amount was carried over from the game against the Ottawa Redblacks on Friday July 11. During that game, the winning number was drawn in the final minutes of the game and then posted online, but no one came forward to claim the prize before the July 15 deadline.

WATCH: Thursday night’s Eskimos game could mean big win for lucky football fan

Edmonton leads the way when it comes to 50/50 ticket sales. Thanks to new electronic ticketing, buyers have three options: one ticket for $5, three tickets for $10 or 10 tickets for $20. The new system has resulted in much larger jackpots since it was introduced in 2012.

The pot at the pre-season game on June 13 was over $45,000, while the season opener on July 4 saw one lucky winner take home nearly $74,000.

Edmonton Eskimos players and staff are not allowed to purchase tickets. However, that didn’t stop them from speculating before the game, how high the jackpot would go.

“I would expect it to be between $150,000 to $200,000,” said Edmonton Eskimos’ quarterback Mike Reilly. “I would imagine they would draw at least as much as they did last time, plus with the added excitement probably more. So, over $200,000? I don’t know.”

Others  mused on what they would do if they did win. Head coach Chris Jones, born in Tennessee, said he would share the wealth.

“My mom has been a school teacher her whole life,” Jones told reporters.

” I’d probably buy my momma a house down south. Because it doesn’t cost very much down south, so I’d probably my momma house down there.”

Thursday night’s attendance was 40,066. The Edmonton Eskimos lost their first game of the season, and the battle of Alberta 26-22 to the Calgary Stampeders.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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