Catch the Ace lottery
Viewed through a large plate-glass window L-R: Sharon Gordon, Tim Shaughnessy and Ellen Stahls of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 147 view the remaining numbers still up for grabs in their Catch the Ace lottery which currently has a jackpot worth well over $20,000. Mark Wanzel/Barrie Examiner/Postmedia Network
Now that they are into Week 23 of the Catch the Ace lottery, committee members at the Dr. W.C. (Bill) Little Royal Canadian Legion Branch 147 in Barrie have sold 22 of the possible 52 cards to contestants hoping for the chance to win a weekly prize of about $1,000.
If they’re really lucky, they’ll also find the ace of spades and win the jackpot that comes with it.
“I was not only lucky, but surprised,” said Angus resident Tom Pridham, who won last week.
Pridham thought he’d won a 50/50 draw at the Angus legion and didn’t realize he’d been the lucky ticket-holder of last week’s first draw.
“I won $932. I think I’ll go out for a nice dinner,” he said.
However, because Pridham’s hidden card turned out to be the 10 of hearts – and not the ace of spades – the jackpot has yet to be won.
Much like the Chase the Ace lottery played on the east coast, Barrie’s legion is selling $5 tickets for a chance to win both the weekly prize of about $1,000 if the ticket is pulled from the ballot box.
And, if that ticket-holder is the lucky recipient of the ace of spades inside a correspondingly sealed envelope, they could also win the cumulative pot, which currently sits at more than $21,000.
The jackpot grows each week the ace remains hidden.
Each weekly sum is divided into three envelopes with 30% given to the lucky ticket-holder, 20% goes into the pot and 50% is held by the lottery host, in this case, the legion.
In Ontario, organizations hosting lotteries must donate a portion of proceeds to charities, so Gilda’s Club, the Alzheimer Society of Simcoe County, Hospice Simcoe, the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association, Ontario Special Olympics and the Canadian Mental Health Association have all been recipients since the Catch the Ace lottery began on Jan. 1.
Known as the Chase the Ace lottery in the Maritimes, million-dollar prizes aren’t unheard of.
This week alone, a woman in St. John’s, N.L.won more than $110,000 when her ticket was drawn. But because she didn’t have the ace, the $750,000 jackpot remains untouched.
With only a dozen cards left, the Newfoundland St. Kevin’s Parish church expects to give the final winner a cheque for more than $1 million when the jackpot is eventually won.
To say Barrie’s legion has suffered growing pains is putting it lightly.
“We wanted to get our feet wet to see how it would go, and then after the first two weeks we were already in the hole,” said legion president Tim Shaughnessy.
He isn’t sure what the odds were that someone would draw the ace of spades during the first week, but when it happened the second week as well, Shaughnessy wondered about the Legion’s future lottery success.
Each lottery licence costs $1,500 and is cancelled when the ace is drawn, so unlike other jurisdictions that have run on the same licence for a year, (of a possible 52 weeks), Shaughnessy said they had to buy three licences in the first three weeks.
“And it’s very strictly regulated,” he said.
The envelopes are held in a glass case under lock and key. Each draw is videotaped and shown on the 54-inch monitor, as was the initial shuffling of the deck and placement of cards into the envelopes, which were reshuffled again before being numbered from one to 52.
“We’ve had the expenses of the video equipment and getting the tickets printed and the licence, but we’re now starting to break even,” Shaughnessy said.
While the legion doesn’t make a lot of money on the lottery, selling tickets and bringing people through the doors has helped, he said.
“Some legions have had to close, but this creates such a buzz in here when we’re drawing the tickets on Sundays, so that’s good news,” Shaughnessy said.
Tickets are available at the Barrie legion from Monday to Friday between noon and 8 p.m. and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays.
Each weekly draw is held Sunday at 5 p.m.