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Lottery game sparks gambling fever in eastern Canada

St Kevin's Parish in Goulds, near St John's, NL Image copyright Facebook /@stkevinsparish
Image caption St Kevin's Parish in Goulds

A uniquely Canadian game has brought gambling fever to the city of St John's in the remote eastern province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Chase the Ace is a lottery game popular all over Canada's east coast, and often raises money for charity.

The winner of each week's draw gets to pick one card out of a deck; the ace of spades wins the jackpot.

A record-breaking-million-dollar game has attracted thousands of people to the Goulds area of St John's.

How the game works:

  • Each week, people buy lottery tickets for the chance to pick one card out of a deck
  • If your number is picked then you automatically win 20% of the day's ticket sales
  • 30% goes to the jackpot and 50% going to the game's organisers
  • But if you get the ace of spades, then you win the whole jackpot
  • Each week that somebody doesn't pick the ace, the jackpot grows

With 12 cards left in the deck, the jackpot in Goulds has grown to C$1m ($800,000, £613,000) and people are lining up as early as 06:00 local time to buy tickets.

Run entirely by volunteers to help raise money for St Kevin's Parish, the jackpot has broken the previous provincial record of C$733,000.

Each Wednesday, when tickets are sold and drawn, the neighbourhood is overwhelmed with traffic, as thousands of people vie for their chance to win it all.

The crowds overwhelm mobile phone towers, making it impossible to make a phone call or send a text message, and traffic is so bad authorities have had to close the road and ban parking on some streets.

"Everything is rocking on Wednesday nights, which is usually a slow night," parish spokesperson Carol O'Brien told the St John's Telegram. "Every business in the Goulds is booming and it is fantastic."

Image copyright Twitter /@EnnisMusic

Things got a little extra-heated this week when people discovered that a printing error caused some tickets to be duplicated.

Service NL, the governmental organisation that regulates gambling in the province, had to postpone this week's draw while it investigated the matter.

"I am going out of town tomorrow morning," Michelle Skinner told the Telegram.

"I know a lot of people also drove in from out of town, so I am sure it is frustrating for a lot of people, including the organisers."

This is not the first time Atlantic Canada has caught Chase-the-Ace fever.

The game was born in Nova Scotia in 2013, reaching a jackpot of about $200,000.

But as the game's popularity spread across the region, so too did its winnings.

In 2016, a game in Sydney, Nova Scotia, reached jackpot of C$2.9m with just five cards left in the deck, the largest jackpot to date.

The winner, grandmother Kathy McPherson, donated part of the money to the victims of Fort McMurray fire.

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