Trou­bleshoot­ing ace-chas­ing, other char­i­ta­ble pur­suits

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - EDITORIAL - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Rus­sell Wanger­sky’s col­umn ap­pears in more than 30 SaltWire news­pa­pers and web­sites in At­lantic Canada. He can be reached at rwanger@thetele­gram.com - Twit­ter: @wanger­sky.

“So you’ve de­cided to Chase the Ace …”

You know, I re­ally think there’s a place in the mar­ket for a “What to Ex­pect When You’re Ex­pect­ing”-style hand­book for the lat­est in char­ity ef­forts. I’m think­ing of a book for or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tees, for vol­un­teer fire de­part­ments, po­lice forces, town coun­cils, and the list goes on — not only for start­ing out, but for the pos­si­bil­ity that your draw goes big.

The con­cept of Chase the Ace is sim­ple enough: at first, it’s just plain play­ing cards, ac­cu­rate tick­ets, and a jack­pot that grows every week that some­one doesn’t pick a par­tic­u­lar ace from a nar­row­ing deck of cards. All’s well and good un­til the size of the jack­pot — and hu­man greed — swell to un­rea­son­able pro­por­tions.

And the prizes have been grow­ing.

This Wed­nes­day, in the Goulds, just out­side St. John’s, the ace be­ing chased is go­ing to be worth a mil­lion bucks or more.

In Meteghan, N.S., the town’s fire depart­ment will see its next draw on Wed­nes­day at more than $350,000, while in Clyde River, N.S., the River Hills Golf and Coun­try Club draw on the 19th will be over $390,000.

The Clyde River draw has grown from a small or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee to over 80 vol­un­teers.

In McIvers, N.L., the town’s come-home year com­mit­tee raised more than $900,000 be­fore the ace was found and some­one won $750,000 last Septem­ber. Sim­i­lar draws in Cape Breton saw prizes of $1.6 mil­lion in Jan­uary and $2.9 mil­lion in May 2016. In Lameque, N.B., what started as a par­ish fundraiser ended up hand­ing over $3.9 mil­lion to three peo­ple who had pooled their re­sources to buy tick­ets this June.

It’s get­ting so big that pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments have toyed with the idea of find­ing some way to share in the funds raised. Right now, their only share of the gam­bling win is the col­lec­tion of a pal­try gam­ing li­cence fee, small pota­toes for gov­ern­ments used to own­ing gam­bling out­right.

You can’t drive on an At­lantic high­way with­out even­tu­ally run­ning into ads for some­one’s un­found ace, but the big ones have a grav­i­ta­tional field so large they are cre­at­ing their own is­sues.

In the Goulds, lo­cal cell­phone sup­pli­ers have had to beef up the com­mu­ni­ca­tions in­fras­truc­ture to keep it from im­plod­ing. Satel­lite ticket of­fices have had to be opened, roads have been closed, ad­di­tional po­lice of­fi­cers put in place and the list goes on. Mak­ing money is now cost­ing money.

Strate­gi­cally, if your ticket is drawn, in most of the games you have to be present, or at least be close enough to be able to claim the right to draw a card. It’s gridlock be­fore that ticket is drawn, and mass ex­o­dus af­ter­wards.

As things scale up, small groups of vol­un­teers sud­denly have to deal with huge or­ga­ni­za­tion chal­lenges - like what you do if a mis­print means more than one ticket has the same unique draw num­ber, some­thing that hap­pened in the Goulds al­ready, and has hap­pened with other chased aces as well.

It would be help, I’m sure, if they knew the things they had to keep in mind.

And also, per­haps, what can hap­pen af­ter­wards: Bay de Verde’s Chase the Ace handed out a prize of $730,000, raised more than a mil­lion dol­lars for the par­ish, cost hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars to put off — and has since re­port­edly di­vided the par­ish over con­cerns about how the money was be­ing spent. Other com­mit­tees, ex­hausted by the full-scale ef­fort in­volved, have had this to say about the draw — “Never again.”

Didn’t see that com­ing? Others have lived it. More could learn from it.

A Chase the Ace hand­book might be just the thing.

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