Sask 5050 raffle Regina tech firm EchoLotto offers paperless lotto

BRANDON HARDER / Regina Leader-Post Paul Burch’s dream is to run the largest 50-50 raffle the province has ever seen, and do it without selling any paper tickets.“There’s no reason we couldn’t run Saskatchewan’s first million-dollar 50-50,” said Burch, co-founder and CEO of the Regina tech startup EchoLotto.Founded in 2015, EchoLotto is taking Saskatchewan’s time-honoured tradition of the 50-50 raffle, and updating it for the digital age.The company provides charities with a website that lets them run a 50-50 raffle entirely over the Internet. Users enter their name and credit card information, and are sent their tickets by email. Since it’s all online, users can watch the pot grow in real-time. When it’s time for the draw, a program chooses a winner and sends the winner an email.So far, the company has helped 25 Saskatchewan charities host online raffles, including Sask. Rugby, Carmichael Outreach and Regina Cat Rescue.Story continues belowThis advertisement has not loaded yet,but your article continues below.Burch said the Regina Cat Rescue’s raffle, which ends Tuesday, has been the most successful one so far. As of Saturday, the pot was at just over $13,000.A friend of Burch’s, Jared Donauer, approached him with the idea of an online 50-50 service in 2013. Donauer had been at a Saskatchewan Roughriders game with his kids, who asked why they couldn’t buy their 50-50 tickets with their phones.Burch thought it was a great idea. Unfortunately, it was illegal.At that time, Canadian law required 50-50 raffles to sell physical tickets. That law changed in 2015, and EchoLotto was incorporated in November of that year. It took 18 months for EchoLotto to become a certified vendor, and then another 24 months of technical work on the product.Since companies that run raffles have to abide by government regulations, Burch had to jump through a lot of hoops, and pivot the company multiple times when SLGA rules would change. It led to EchoLotto launching a year later than he originally planned. But in June of 2018, EchoLotto put on its first 50-50 raffle with Queen City Pride.“We fought our way through the regulations, and so we’re kind of the only game in town doing what we’re doing,” said Burch. Paul Burch, who is the co-founder of a Regina tech startup called EchoLotto, holds a smartphone displaying the Regina Cat Rescue’s online 50-50 raffle. Saskatchewan would appear to be the perfect province to launch a digital 50-50 service. From small-town events to Regina Pats games, the raffles are part of the province’s culture. According to the SLGA’s 2017-18 annual report, total gross raffle sales for that year were $62.5 million.EchoLotto’s main pitch is to take away the stress running a physical 50-50 raffle. It’s less taxing on volunteer resources, and offers a secure way of collecting money that can help prevent theft.None of the money goes through EchoLotto. All transactions are between the charity and ticket buyers. EchoLotto takes a transaction fee and a percentage of the total ticket sales. Burch didn’t want to divulge what the percentage was because it can vary, but said the industry standard for organizations that run 50-50s ranges between four and 15 per cent.United Way Regina used EchoLotto for the first time last fall when it put on a month-long 50-50. Amanda Lanoway, the charity’s associate director of engagement, said running a digital 50-50 was much more feasible for the organization.“If we had to run it as a traditional 50-50 with paper and people selling them, as our organization we would not have pursued it. It would be just far too time consuming, and the manpower that would be needed to orchestrate all of that,” said Lanoway.The analytics EchoLotto offered were also a big help. Lanoway said the non-profit could see what marketing strategies, such as radio ads, translated into ticket sales by being able to see the exact time purchases occurred.Burch said EchoLotto’s service is secure and privacy is taken seriously. Credit card information is not stored by EchoLotto, and users only need to provide their name and email so they can be contacted if they win the pot.Burch’s future plans for EchoLotto involve getting larger charities involved and hosting bigger pots. He’s also keeping an eye on potentially expanding to markets not only in other provinces, but overseas as well.“We’ve been working with STEP (Sask. Trade & Export Partnership) and doing some research on jumping the pond actually. Looking at the U.K. and Australia,” said [email protected]

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