ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — A small community outside St. John’s, N.L., was a traffic-clogged madhouse Wednesday, as tens of thousands of people sought sudden wealth in the finale of a much-watched, big-money Chase the Ace contest.
“There’s a lot of big orders coming — people are doubling up their money because it’s the last one,” said Carol O’Brien, a spokesperson for the draw in Goulds, N.L.
People began lining up before dawn at St. Kevin’s Parish hall, and the line was already a kilometre long by 7:30 a.m. local time Wednesday ahead of a draw later in the evening that could be worth $2.5 million or more.
The province has declared the ace of spades must be drawn Wednesday night, and there could be multiple draws until someone is declared the winner.
There are eight cards remaining in the deck.
Goulds has been inundated with Chase the Ace crowds most Wednesdays this summer, buying numbered tickets for about $5 each to vie for the life-changing jackpot.
But organizers have said they didn’t want the draw to interfere with school, which starts in early September in the building next door to St. Kevin’s hall.
O’Brien said there could be as many as 100,000 people Wednesday in her little community.
“I’m glad it’s finishing but I’m going to miss it, I have to say,” O’Brien said.
“Have I enjoyed it? Oh God yes. I really have. It really filled a void for me — I lost my husband suddenly last August and it started in October, so it was kind of like an outlet for me, it really filled a gap for me.”
Similar draws have been held across Atlantic Canada in recent years with varying success — some lost money for their charities while others that lingered for months saw entire towns effectively shut down by the hoopla as jackpots grew.
Social media was abuzz Wednesday with ticket-buyers and observers in Newfoundland and beyond. Some were drawing maps as the lineup grew and videos showed a slow-moving procession in the streets of Goulds.
A Twitter user with the name Becky McDonald tweeted that her group reached the lineup early Wednesday.
“We lined up for #chasetheace at 6:55am and were out of the Goulds by 9:15. Went to Cora’s and now it’s nap time!” she tweeted.
In Chase the Ace, the winner gets a percentage of total ticket sales and a bigger jackpot if they pull the ace of spades from a deck of cards that gets smaller with each draw.
In a press release about the draw, the provincial government said winning tickets must be verified within 15 minutes of being drawn at one of four locations.
It explained how things will unfold:
“Upon verification of the first ticket drawn, the ticket holder shall have the opportunity to choose a card. If the ace of spades is selected, the winner shall receive the consolation prize and the escalating jackpot. The event then concludes.
“If the ace of spades is not selected the ticket holder shall receive the consolation prize, based on 20 per cent of the sales for August 30, 2017. The card drawn is defaced.
“Subsequent validated ticket holders shall have the opportunity to choose a card. Each subsequent validated ticket holder who does not select the ace of spades shall receive a $25,000 consolation prize.”