-- Early Friday morning, an Edmonton Eskimos fan claimed one of the largest jackpots in 50/50 raffle sports history.
Connor Croken, 20, walked into team offices with winning ticket #280731C, entitling him to $322,216 ($348,534 in Canadian money), which is half the $644,432 raised by fans of the team. The other half will go toward funding amateur football in the province of Alberta.
The pot rose to record numbers thanks to the fact that a raffle jackpot of $66,812 (C$71,732) for the team's July 11 game went unclaimed and was rolled over. With the Eskimos playing their rival, the Calgary Stampeders, and both teams undefeated, a crowd of 40,066 showed up to the game.
"As it turned out, we had half the people in the stands and half the people on the concourses trying to buy tickets," said Len Rhodes, the team's CEO and president.
By the time the raffle ended, which is 10 minutes of real time once the third quarter begins, hundreds of people were still in line to get into the raffle.
"We think we could have reached a prize of $500,000, but we're a football team, not a lottery team," Rhodes said.
When the raffle ended, Rhodes said the team printed out what amounted to roughly 170,000 tickets on 18 printers so that they could be put into a large wheel to pick out the winner. While the team usually announces the winner in the fourth quarter, the amount of entrants and then time it took to complete the process resulted in it posting the winning combination to its website around 3 a.m. local time, Rhodes said.
Croken, who had until Monday to claim his prize, told the team he didn't want to publicly speak until he came back on Tuesday to receive his check. Per Canadian law, his prize is tax free.
The prize was more than double the team's previous record 50/50 raffle payout of $119,105 (C$127,875) on Aug. 24, 2013. To put Thursday's prize in perspective, the average winner at Eskimos games last season received $63,182 (C$67,835).
An official with the Edmonton Wildcats, one of the amateur football teams the raffle helps benefit, told CTV that the team's 50/50 raffle program provides lower-level football with more than 50 percent of its budget.