Nova Scotia

Chase the Ace at $1.2M 'really big' for Cape Breton town, organizer says

Unlike some draws such as the one in Inverness in October 2015, the winner does not have to be present at the North Sydney event.

The ace wasn't drawn Sunday afternoon, but a woman from Reserve Mines, N.S., went home with about $80K

Donelda MacAskill, 62, of Englistown, N.S., won more than $1.7 million in Inverness last fall. The estimated jackpot Sunday in North Sydney, N.S., is approaching that amount. (Darren Pittman/The Canadian Press)

The lure of an estimated $1.2 million jackpot drew hundreds to Chase the Ace in North Sydney, N.S. on Sunday.

The excitement of a huge win is "the luck of the draw, for sure," organizer Debra MacLean said. 

The ace wasn't drawn Sunday afternoon, but there was a winner anyway — a woman from Reserve Mines, N.S., went home with just under $80,000.

The lottery is popular. Four organizations in the community have teamed up over the last year and a half to run several of the popular card game fundraisers — but none have come close to this.

"This is really good for us," MacLean said.

Growing jackpots

To play Chase the Ace, people buy a ticket like in a 50-50 draw. If their ticket is drawn, they get a percentage of ticket sales or the jackpot, if they get the lucky ace of spades.

Unlike some draws such as the one in the Cape Breton community of Inverness in October 2015, the winner in the North Sydney event does not have to present at Sunday's North Sydney event.

The next draw is Jan. 8 with an expected jackpot of $1.3 million.

Each week the deck gets smaller and the odds of winning get higher.

Kathy McPherson, a labourer, hugs her husband Ron, a scaffolder, after winning $2.9 million last spring in a Chase the Ace draw. (Chase the Ace)

The popular fundraiser grew to fame last year as jackpots in Atlantic Canada grew into the millions. At a draw in Sydney last spring, one woman home from working in Alberta won $2.9 million.

'A place we've certainly never been'

The North Sydney fundraiser, called Northside 4 Chase the Ace, is going towards the Emera Centre, junior sailing programs at Northern Yacht Club and Seaview Golf, as well as Haley Street Adult Services Centre Society, of which MacLean is executive director.

Haley Street has made $300,000 since the games began a year and a half ago, "a very, very significant amount of money" to the group's annual $1.1 million budget, she said.

"That's really big," she said. "This is a place we've certainly never been."

'Sense of community'

The groups have used the money to buy a 15-passenger van, renovate washrooms, make an addition to a building and bought jackets for users staff and volunteers.

"People like to have a sense of community, I think, and part of Chase the Ace's attraction is that the money is staying in the local community," MacLean said.

"We get a lot of people coming in and saying, 'Gee, I hope it doesn't even go this week. You guys need some more money.'"

The Haley Street group doesn't have money for capital expenses, and previous fundraising efforts never pulled in enough, MacLean said. One of their previous main fundraisers, a ladies night, took four months of organizing to bring in $8,000 on the best year, she said.

"When we have this opportunity, we really can't turn it down," she said.

There were 10 cards left in the deck after Sunday's draw.