After hours of server delays created frustration for fans trying to buy tickets, the Edmonton Oilers’ online 50/50 broke its own jackpot record Friday evening.
As of 11:25 p.m., the Edmonton Oilers website showed that the pot had passed $15.2 million, crushing the previous record of $5,417,130.
However, with many fans — including some who spoke on the record to Global News — saying problems with the website timing out resulted in them being charged for more tickets than they wanted to buy, it was not immediately clear whether some of the tickets may be refunded.
“We need time to work through this issue before we can say with certainty where the pot will be,” Tim Shipton, an executive with the Oilers Entertainment Group, told Global News.
“It will be a significant number in any case.
“We are working with our technology service provider to address the technical issues experienced during the raffle. We are aware of this issue and are working as we speak to resolve it.”
Becky Ward told Global News she was waiting for tickets to go on sale in the morning to log on and get tickets because “last time was a bit of a pain.”
She said she had to reload the page over and over again but eventually got her tickets. Then she logged on again to try to buy tickets for her friend who wanted $200 worth. She said it was at the screen where you make the actual payment that a problem occurred.
“Honestly, I probably should have looked at my credit card, but usually you think it kicks you off, it just didn’t work.”
She said while cooking dinner she checked her credit card and it charged her five times for $200 each time.
Ward said neither she nor her friend can afford to buy $1,000 worth of tickets. She said she emailed the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation (EOCF) about the issue and received a message saying someone would contact her within 24 hours.
“I do really hope that they can do something for myself and …other people… who were charged or double-charged for things that they didn’t think they were paying for,” she said.
Taylor Kordyban said she and her mother planned to buy $20 worth of tickets and tried since they went on sale in the morning. She said the website would keep booting her out and show messages about server issues.
“A couple of times we were able to put in payment information, but as soon as that was…being done… it just totally blocked and Gateway timed out,” Kordyban said.
After work, Kordyban said she checked her emails and saw six confirmation emails for $20 each. In total, she was charged $120.
“I’m quite upset just because I only wanted to spend $20,” she said.
Kordyban said she hopes she can get a refund but worries that may not happen.
“I don’t know if there’s any way anyone can get any of their money back now because… some of us had ticket numbers right?” she said. “I’m not sure how you can take back the numbers.”
Daniel Lewis is the CEO of Ascend Fundraising Solutions, a supplier of charitable gaming technology to the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation. He said the traffic on the website when sales opened at 9 a.m. on Friday was “unprecedented by any standard in any raffle lottery program that’s ever been run before.”
“Before the qualifying round started for the NHL, the biggest raffle in history was $2 million,” Lewis said. “We are going to be north of $13 million tonight.
Lewis said his company has never run into a problem where people spent more money than they wanted to. He said the system tracks people that purchased tickets and added that people who emailed the Oilers on Friday about incorrect charges “will be voided as part of our procedures.”
“We also have to maintain the integrity of the system, be sure that after the draw is done, that people don’t come back later and say that they don’t want a ticket,” he added. “Anyone who has sent a ticket, we are actively trying to void those particular customers.
“We have taken all the customer feedback that we’ve received and our team is actively trying to void those tickets:”
Half the jackpot goes to the person with the winning ticket while the other half goes to the EOCF, which redistributes that money to community organizations.
On Thursday, the EOCF said the server provider had increased capacity for Friday’s hockey game against the Chicago Blackhawks.
The EOCF addressed early server delays in a tweet, saying they had even more demand than previous draws.
Numerous people reached out to Global News saying the website stated they could not buy 50/50 tickets from their “current location,” despite being in Alberta while trying to purchase.
Officials said they added 2.5 times more capacity to the maximum allowable ticket sales before sales began Friday morning.
“The expectation is — although Oilers fans have proven they can shatter all expectations–that the server will have the capacity to handle demand,” Shipton said.
50/50 sales have skyrocketed each day the raffle has been open.
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.
The previous record was held by Toronto Raptors fans when its raffle reached $2 million during the 2019 NBA Finals, the year the team won the championship.
On Wednesday, the pot hit the $2-million mark just before 11:30 a.m. That was nine hours before the puck was scheduled to drop for Game 3 against the Chicago Blackhawks.
It only took another hour for the pot to climb to $3 million. In another 30 minutes, it had surpassed $4 million. By just after 2 p.m., the tally had reached over $5 million.
By 2:30 p.m., the tally sat at $5.4 million, and the EOCF announced that ticket sales had ended — just five hours after sales kicked off.
Natalie Minckler, executive director of the EOCF, said its service provider has told them Wednesday’s draw was a world record.
Shipton added that the excitement has even entered the NHL bubble at Rogers Place.
“Players from around the league were fascinated and asking if they could buy tickets to the 50/50,” he said. “We had to remind them that as long as they are Alberta residents they could, but if not they were out of luck.”
The Edmonton Oilers were eliminated from the NHL post-season by the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 4 of their qualifying round series on Friday night.
–With files from 630 CHED’s Kirby Bourne, Global News’ Sarah Komadina and The Canadian Press