Chase the Ace has a dark side, doctor warns
'Chase the Ace' jackpot tickets are added to a new 'ticket pit' ahead of the draw in Sydney, N.S. on Saturday, April 9, 2016. (CTV News / Kyle Moore)
Aly Thomson, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, May 6, 2016 3:17PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, May 6, 2016 4:49PM EDT
SYDNEY, N.S. -- As a Chase the Ace jackpot in Sydney, N.S., climbs to a record $2.6 million, one Cape Breton doctor is warning about the potential downsides of the multi-million-dollar fundraiser.
Dr. Chris Milburn said while he realizes most ticket buyers are not gambling addicts, he has encountered some locals who have spent the bulk of their social assistance cheques chasing the ace.
Milburn, a family and emergency physician, said Chase the Ace is highly promoted in the region and the hype is far-reaching, so he believes it's important for the community to have a meaningful discussion about the good and bad aspects of the ongoing lottery.
"This lottery is so in-your-face and so advertised that anybody who says there's not going to be problem gamblers or people spending their kid's lunch money on this is just not well informed about how these things work," said Milburn.
"There is an upside, but we should realize that it does come with a downside. We need to have a more intelligent and two-sided discussion on these type of things when we create them and promote them."
Organizer Stephen Tobin said he's heard these types of concerns before, but noted that Chase the Ace isn't just a lottery.
"From our perspective, this is much more than just a lottery. It's an event in every sense of the word," said Tobin. "It's a community event, a fundraising event, a social event -- it's much more than just your standard lottery."
Everton McLean, a spokesman for Nova Scotia Health Authority, said there isn't enough evidence yet to determine how Chase the Ace affects problem gambling because the lottery is so new. He said the issue needs to be studied.
An estimated jackpot of $2.6 million is up for grabs on Saturday with five cards left in the deck, and up to 10,000 people are expected in Sydney, said Tobin.
Organizers say they will donate $25,000 of the charitable proceeds from the draw to the Red Cross for disaster relief efforts in Fort McMurray.
Tobin said nearly 80,000 people tuned into the live stream of the last event two weeks ago, many of whom were curious Cape Bretoners living as far away as Japan.
Chase the Ace is like a 50-50 draw in which players buy numbered tickets for $5 each. The winner gets a percentage of the total ticket sales, and a bigger jackpot if they pull the ace of spades from a deck of cards that gets smaller with each successive draw.