The Chase the Ace weekly lottery came to a sudden and dramatic end on Nov. 4 with a massive jackpot for one lucky Hay River man.
Les Ring drew the ace of spades from a black box containing just 10 cards, and thereby won $511,034.
“I’m speechless,” he told a crowd of people witnessing the draw at The Doghouse Sports Bar in The Ptarmigan Inn.
The total prize consisted of a progressive jackpot that had grown to $463,079 in the 43 weeks of the lottery and a weekly prize of $47,955.
Just moments after drawing the ace, Ring told The Hub he was shocked when he realized he had drawn the ace of spades.
“I didn’t think I had a chance at all,” he said. “But I didn’t even think I had a chance to even get my ticket pulled. It was pretty amazing. My legs were shaking after and still are.”
Ring, who is one of the owners of Ring’s Pharmacy, was actually at home when his ticket was drawn to give him the right to draw for the ace of spades, and he was watching the draw live on Facebook.
Once his ticket was drawn, he headed to The Ptarmigan Inn.
“My truck was in the garage,” he said. “I was hoping I could get it out without hitting the side because I was shaking.”
Then he had to drive – through a foggy night – while hoping not to speed.
“I knew I had lots of time,” he said.
Ring had asked Lisa Boyce, a worker at Ring’s Pharmacy, to buy $60 worth of tickets for him.
“That’s a pretty good investment in returning a profit,” he said.
Ring said he doesn’t know what he will do with his winnings but will discuss it with his wife and his family.
Lottery organizer Glenn Smith of the Hay River Curling Club, which presented the lottery, also couldn’t believe it when he saw the ace of spades.
“Forty-two weeks in and each time you’re used to seeing it not being the ace,” he said. “So you expect it to not be the ace.”
During the many months of Chase the Ace, the Hay River Curling Club has made an estimated $600,000 in profit.
Smith said the exact figure will be determined in the next couple of weeks.
Davida Delorey, the president of the Hay River Curling Club, said she can hardly describe what Chase the Ace has meant for the organization.
“It means we will have a very, very, very nice lounge and curling rink when it’s all built and said and done,” she said. “So we’re very pleased with all the support we got.”
Delorey said more than 40 volunteers have been involved every week since the jackpot started to rise.
“So it’s very nice to have that support from the community, and hopefully we brought business into the community by having this Chase the Ace,” she said. “So I hope it works both ways.”
The idea for Chase the Ace in Hay River originated with Paul Delorey, Davida’s husband and a current board member.
Paul Delorey said he had the idea two years ago.
“Chase the Ace is big down East,” said the man from Nova Scotia, noting a couple of jackpots there have climbed to about $2 million. “So I knew when I suggested to the curling club that we do this that it had potential. I never thought that we’d raise this kind of money in Hay River.”
The former curling club president explained it didn’t happen last year because the municipal workers strike meant there weren’t enough town employees to get the necessary bylaw changes.
Paul Delorey praised Glenn Smith for volunteering to spearhead Chase the Ace.
“He took it on and did a hell of a job doing it,” said Delorey, while also offering thanks to the volunteers and the club’s fundraising committee.
“It may never raise this kind of money again in Hay River but for us we hit it lucky and did it and I couldn’t be happier,” he said.
It was the first Chase the Ace lottery ever held in Hay River. The town has decided that only one lottery licence at a time will be awarded for Chase the Ace, and the next organization to get a licence has not yet been determined.
If the jackpot had not been won on Nov. 4, there would have been no draw on Nov. 11 because of Remembrance Day.
And the plan was that on Nov. 18 there would have been one or more draws until the jackpot was won so the lottery would not interfere with retail sales in Hay River during the Christmas shopping season.
Smith admitted to a bit of sadness as Chase the Ace came to an end for the Hay River Curling Club.
It was an economic stimulus for the community, he said. “But more important than that, it was a social stimulus.”
Beginning a few weeks ago, $20,000 from each draw was donated to the project to rebuild the Don Stewart Recreation Centre. At the end of the lottery, that donation totals $80,000.