Raffle organizers: Refunds going out

Published 11:36 am Friday, September 4, 2015

Organizers of the Great River Raffle say they are disappointed the event had to be canceled and want to assure people who did buy tickets they will get their money back.

Despite the fact that more than $350,000 in tickets were sold, the event was canceled because that number is still well short of the half million dollars in sales needed to just break even. Now event organizers are focused solely on returning the money, according to Jon Ferguson, a member of the ad hoc raffle committee.

“We are working feverishly to get refunds sent out,” Ferguson said.

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Originally set for June 26, the raffle was touted as community celebration and fundraiser that would give away mega prizes ranging from firearms to ATVs to cars every five minutes for seven straight hours. The top two prizes were to be $50,000 and $25,000.

To make this possible, 5,000 tickets at a cost of $100 each had to be sold. That revenue was to cover the cost of the prizes. Any money raised above that was slated to go into the community, said organizers who hoped to sell $1 million in tickets.

Top on that list was funding for the ongoing restoration of the Ro-Na Theater, the major project of the Friends of Ironton organization that was financially supporting the raffle by paying for printing the tickets and helping to promote the event.

As ticket sales lagged, organizers pushed the date back to Sept. 26 in hopes the raffle would take off.

Ferguson even sought the support of the Lawrence County Commissioners recently, promising to donate $100,000 to the county’s general fund if officeholders helped sell tickets.

Although the group is believed to have sold more than 3,500 tickets, they were unable to get to the break-even mark, despite promotions like selling discounted tickets at a summer beer fest and throughout the region.

This week the organizers officially canceled it after selling at least $356,728 before June 26, according to the raffle website.

Many ticket holders have taken to social media and other platforms to express concerns about whether or not they would get their money back, especially when the organizers said it would take four to six weeks for cash and check buyers to be reimbursed.

“The turnaround time was based on being able to get all checks written and processed,” Ferguson said. “We had to actually order enough checks to make all the refunds. No prizes had been purchased as the minimum ticket sales weren’t met. We agreed not to make any purchases until then, which turned out to be a good move. Everyone will get their money back that made a purchase.”