Atlantic Lottery Corp.’s controversial online game GeoSweep completed its first full year on a low note Thursday, holding its 365th consecutive $250,000 grand prize draw with no winner.
"The winning Geo is.....Unoccupied," a pre-recorded message on ALC's website announced following the Thursday draw, the same announcement that's been posted every day for the past year.
GeoSweep is the longest running ALC game not to award its grand prize, a likely sign of poor sales, according to experts, although the Crown corporation has consistently refused to reveal the game's actual sales figures.
ALC also did not respond to phone or email messages on Thursday asking about the year-long jackpot drought.
ALC calls GeoSweep "Atlantic Canada's map based lottery game" and paid millions to acquire and market it in the region.
Lottery executives viewed it as a likely hit with younger players — or the so-called Facebook generation — because it's played exclusively online and utilizes Google Maps technology. In the game, Atlantic Canada is divided up into 2.3 million separate squares which can be "occupied" for 25 cents each per day.
All 2.3 million squares, whether they are occupied or not are entered into a random daily draw for $250,000. So far unoccupied — or unpurchased — squares have won all 365 draws. That suggests very few squares in the draw have actually been purchased.
'It didn't break any new ground'
Chris McCavour, a 24-year-old student in Saint John, said he's familiar with GeoSweep and does play other lottery games. But he said neither he nor his friends have been interested by the map-based version.
"It really didn't break any new ground, I guess, for me," said McCavour.
McCavour's indifference is not unique. Large expanses of the GeoSweep map go unoccupied weekly, including many locations young players might be expected to be found.
For example, at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John, ALC divided the campus into 1,500 GeoSweep squares for students and others to buy but none were registered as purchased for the latest draw.
In Fredericton, just two of 1,000 squares on the UNB and St. Thomas University campuses were occupied while in Charlottetown all 800 of the squares at UPEI went unsold.
In other areas of Atlantic Canada the lack of play is even more severe.
In Newfoundland and Labrador's Gros Morne National Park more than 10,000 GeoSweep squares are available for purchase with just five currently occupied.
In northern Labrador, none of the several thousand squares for sale in the Torngat Mountains National Park have an owner.
While in Nova Scotia, just three have been purchased in the Keijimkujik National Park out of more than 10,000 available.
The pattern is similar in New Brunswick, where two squares have been purchased inside the Mount Carleton Provincial Park and five on Canadian Forces Base Gagetown out of a combined 25,000 available.
More embarrassing for ALC, however, are its own two Red Shores gaming facilities in Charlottetown and Summerside which were subdivided into a combined 2,500 squares, with just four squares, or $1 worth, purchased for Thursday's draw.
Sales figures questioned
Last October, after Geosweep's 132nd draw had still produced no winner, ALC spokesperson Lindsay Shannon dismissed it as a sign of trouble.
"We haven't yet awarded the $250,000 GeoSweep top prize, which is not unusual shortly after the launch of a new game," said Shannon.
"Fingers crossed that we will be hosting a cheque presentation soon."
But that didn't happen and last month after draw number 327 failed to produce a jackpot winner, Danny Dyer and Nabil Shalaby, mathematics professors at Memorial University, told CBC News it was highly improbable GeoSweep is selling more than one per cent of its squares daily.
But with the number of winless draws now at 365 and GeoSweep's own map showing huge stretches of unsold real estate, it is more likely than not sales are well below that one per cent figure, a year after GeoSweep's launch.