Barb Reddick and her nephew, Tyrone MacInnis, smiled for the cameras as they held an oversized cheque for $1.2 million after winning a long-running lottery in a tiny Nova Scotia town.

But when organizers handed each winner an individual cheque for just over $600,000, Reddick’s smile disappeared.

“I’m taking him to court. I’m getting my lawyer tomorrow,” Reddick shouted following the press conference.

Both family members’ names were on the winning ticket pulled Wednesday night at a Chase the Ace draw in Margaree, N.S. Organizers split the $1,222,639 prize in half and gave each winner $611,319.50.

The public meltdown has prompted questions about who is entitled to the prize. Organizers stand behind the decision to cut two cheques, but Reddick insists her nephew deserves nothing.

Reddick claims she put her nephew’s name on the ticket for “good luck” but never intended to split the $1.2-million winnings with him. Instead, she said she planned to only split the consolation prize from the 50-50 draw, which happens before the Chase the Ace jackpot and is significantly smaller.

“I said split. I said split with the 50/50 (draw), not with no Chase the Ace,” she said.

Ahead of the cheque ceremony, family members told CTV Atlantic that MacInnis bought the ticket on Monday. An image of the pink ticket shows Reddick’s name beside the “name” line. MacInnis’ name is directly below, next to a line for “address,” and his phone number is at the bottom.

“He is like a son to me,” she said while explaining why his name was on the ticket. She immediately clarified the statement by saying “he was.”

When asked if her nephew deserves the money, Reddick said, “No, I don’t think so.”

Organizers said they called MacInnis to share the good news because neither family member was present Wednesday when the winning ace was drawn.

Chase the Ace organizer Bernice Curley said she was disappointed by the sour ending.

“I can’t really explain it. I didn’t expect anything like that to happen. I just came to deliver the cheques and present them to the winners,” she said.

Organizers are confident that dividing the prize was the right move. Curley said she called Nova Scotia Alcohol and Gaming Thursday morning to make sure it was OK.

“They were perfectly fine with that, they thought that would be easier for everybody involved,” she said.

The Chase the Ace series was held to raise funds for two local volunteer fire departments. There were just two cards left in the deck on Wednesday night.

Earlier this year, an Ontario woman sued her former common-law partner over a $6-million lottery prize. She sought about $3 million – what she considers her share of the winnings – and an additional $500,000 for aggravated damages. 

How the game works

The rules of Chase the Ace are simple. Participants buy tickets to be entered into a weekly draw. A single ticket is drawn each week, and the winner instantly gets part of the pool. A fraction of the week’s funds go to the fire departments, while the remaining money is squirreled away into a growing jackpot.

On top of the initial winnings, the ticket holder gets the chance to pull one card from a standard 52-card deck. If the ace of spades is drawn, they win the total jackpot.

If the card isn’t drawn, the shrinking deck is set aside for the next week -- thereby narrowing the odds.

With files from CTV Atlantic