Despite the Edmonton Oilers loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday, the team said that they had broken the 50/50 jackpot record set Wednesday. However, the draw has many looking for a refund after they were charged multiple times when they tried to buy tickets.
Shannon Low was trying to buy $300 worth of tickets for a group of coworkers. Each time she tried to complete the transaction, she said she got a message that said “gateway timed out.” Low said that despite the error messages, the transactions actually went through. Now she’s got $1,500 in charges on her credit card.
“At this point, they know there is an issue, I think that they should suspend sales until they can rectify the situation and not continue to sell tickets or proceed with the draw,” she said Friday night.
Low said she doesn’t plan to burden her coworkers with the extra charges, but she’s hoping the Oilers will refund the charges, because it will be a significant strain on her budget.
“The whole thing has been a really a disappointing experience, and now the Oilers have lost. It’s just makes it more sour.”
The Oilers Entertainment Group issued a statement about the issue on Friday night.
“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,” said Tim Shipton of the OEG.
“We will not proceed with the draw until we process outstanding transactions and are confident we have resolved the issues.”
The complaints about multiple charges come on top of multiple other technical issues that were reported by users during the day on Friday.
On Friday morning when sales opened, a number of social media users reported difficulty accessing the site.
The Oilers Foundation tweeted it had contacted its service provider who was working on the issue.
“They are seeing significant increase in demand, even beyond our previous game. They are working expeditiously to resolve.”
It later tweeted that traffic for the draw’s site was at “extremely high levels.”
“We apologize to those trying to buy tickets & will update you as soon as we can.”
CTV News was contacted by multiple people who couldn’t connect to the site or were geo-blocked from buying tickets despite living in Alberta, as required by draw rules.
Jo Neville said she tried unsuccessfully three times to purchase tickets to Friday’s draw.
“It’s preventing people like us trying to purchase tickets to help out. Now I don’t expect to win anything but at least I know half of what I donate to purchase a ticket will go to a good cause.”
Nimrit Nijjar had a similar experience, saying she had been getting error messages on the site since 9:00 a.m.
“Either my IP address gets blocked for some reason or it says the server’s unavailable or the connection is timing out so I’ve been kind of recycling between these three different messages throughout the day,” she said.
“I’m excited to see that everyone’s so enthusiastic about this and clearly that we’re totally crashing the system but I’m a little disappointed that I wasn’t able to so far, get in on the jackpot there.”
The Oilers Foundation says the provider had increased capacity by 2 1/2 times for today’s draw, which opened at 9 a.m. and is set to run until 10:30 p.m.
Some were able to access the site and purchase tickets, however. As of 3:00 p.m., the prize pot sat at just over $1,200,000.
“The expectation is – although Oilers fans have proven they can shatter all expectations – that the server will have the capacity to handle demand,” said Tim Shipton, senior vice-president of communications for the Oilers Entertainment Group.
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 a 50/50 raffle reached $2 million during the 2019 NBA Finals, the year the team won the championship.
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.”
Shipton added that the excitement has even entered the bubble at Rogers Place.
“NHL 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 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.
With files from The Canadian Press