The regulator of lotteries in Nova Scotia is looking into the Bryony House Dare to Dream Lottery after a complaint from a Dartmouth woman.
The lottery — which raffled off a $1.2 million home in Waverley in November — was a fundraiser for Bryony House, a charity that helps victims of domestic violence.
The complaint was filed by Anne Totten, who bought one of the more than 22,000 tickets sold. She wrote a letter to the Alcohol and Gaming Division of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations last week.
She said the alarm bells went off for her after learning the charity barely broke even. Ticket sales and the 50/50 draw brought in just under $2.5 million.
"I felt deceived," Totten said. "I felt like I had given my money and support to a cause that's near to my heart and it actually didn't do them any good at all."
Among Totten's complaints is that the dream home was sold to the charity for $1,075,000 by Kris Martin, who is the homeowner. The lottery was an idea conceived and run by Martin and her friend, Maria Sancho.
After the house was raffled off, Martin bought the home from the lottery winners for $620,000 — a difference of $455,000.
For Totten, that was the last straw.
"You think that in the end you're going to be helping a charity and in this case it just looked like I was helping someone earn more money, which really wasn't the point," she said.
Calls to Martin on Tuesday were not returned.
Documents show that Martin had taken out a mortgage in 2013 of $800,000.
Sancho blamed Bryony House for the lottery's problems.
"The prizes were awarded without the project manager, me personally, being involved. Things could have been distributed differently," she said.
Sancho said the executive director of Bryony House, Laurie Ehler, has been in control of the money.
"Distribution of the funds, that has been done only by Laurie Ehler. So if there's any questions in regards to monies, I think there should be an answer and a back up evidence of what has been done," Sancho said.
"If I had been in charge of distribution of funds, it would have gone better."
Ehler said she's uncertain about Sancho's complaint because Bryony House is required to hold the bank account and pay the lottery expenses.
Closer look welcomed
Having failed to make any money in the lottery, Bryony House says its planned $700,000 expansion is now on hold.
The lottery, operated by ALPC Housing Solutions, was fraught with poor ticket sales from the start. In September, the idea of awarding a cash prize of $600,000 — rather than the home — was floated.
That upset some ticket holders, who felt the top prize was not what they'd bargained for.
A total of 60,000 tickets were available to be sold at $100 each or in packs of three and five. In August, when ticket sales were no more than 15,000, the organizers went to the Alcohol and Gaming Division to request an extension for their contest.
That extension was granted but in the end, between 22,000 and 23,000 tickets for the lottery were sold — well short of the 60,000 goal.
Sancho would not say what her lottery management fee was for operating ALPC Housing Solutions, but she said she has not been paid.
Both Ehler and Sancho said they welcome a closer look by the Alcohol and Gaming Division.