SBJ/August 29-September 4, 2011/Facilities

Doing the splits: Tech company helps teams bring charity raffles into the tablet age

A Canadian entrepreneur is bringing high-tech to big league raffles.

Dan Tanenbaum, whose uncle Larry Tanenbaum is chairman of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, is president and co-founder of the Toronto company Bump 50:50, which has developed an in-venue mobile technology using computer tablets to maximize revenue from 50-50 raffles. A number of hockey, basketball and baseball teams use the raffles, which split the money collected each night between the fan with the winning ticket and the team’s charitable organization.

Bump 50:50’s system has helped raise more funds for the Blues’ charitable trust.
The St. Louis Blues 14 Fund, the team’s charitable trust, used the system last season after signing a five-year deal. Bump 50:50 paid for the cost to set up the system at Scottrade Center and supply the fund with 10 iPads. In turn, the fund paid the vendor a percentage of sales.

Using the tablets generated a cash total of more than $7,000 a game, said Bruce Affleck, the NHL club’s vice president of broadcasting, who sits on the fund’s board of directors. Two seasons ago, the average was $3,800 when the fund sold raffle tickets by hand for the final 15 games of the regular season.

Under the traditional model, fans buying 50-50 raffle tickets receive one-half of a numbered hard ticket. The seller keeps the other half of the ticket. Toward the end of the game, the team randomly selects a winning number.

Tablet technology speeds up the process, Tanenbaum said. After the fan decides how many tickets to buy, the seller chooses that option on the tablet and presses a button on the device. A mobile printer on the seller’s hip spits out a numbered ticket that’s given to the buyer. A ticket with the same number is printed in the nonprofit group’s office and thrown into a drum from which the winning ticket is drawn.

The key to the technology is that it provides real-time updates on how much money has been collected, which in turn enables nonprofits to sell raffle tickets longer without having to stop to count the money. Having that information in hand is a big plus for fans who prefer to know how much money is at stake before buying raffle tickets, Tanenbaum said.

Two years ago, the Blues’ fund had to stop selling raffle tickets at the end of the second period to count the cash. Last season, the group sold raffle tickets up to five minutes into the third period, a stretch covering the second intermission. The bulk of raffle tickets are sold before games and between periods, and that extra 20-minute break makes a difference, Tanenbaum said.

The system also provides increased accountability and security, Tanenbaum said.

For the Blues, the technology is a good fit for a fund that has distributed about $2 million to the St. Louis community since its inception in 1998, and fans enjoy seeing the technology at work, Affleck said. “It’s a lot more professional,” he said.

This coming season, the Blues’ fund plans to post the running tally on the center-hung video board at Scottrade Center to promote the raffle and increase sales. Ten more iPads are also on order, Affleck said.

Bump 50:50 is in talks with some NBA and MLB teams to use its technology, Tanenbaum said. He did not have a number for how many clubs conduct raffles.

The company cannot sign a deal with Tanenbaum’s hometown Maple Leafs because raffles are considered gambling in Ontario. The NFL also prohibits in-game raffles, he said.

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