INVERNESS, N.S. — A wildly popular fundraising game that has drawn thousands of people to a small Cape Breton town will be brought to an end on Oct. 3 by organizers who say Chase the Ace has simply grown too big.

Cameron MacQuarrie said Wednesday that if no one wins the jackpot this Saturday, they will regroup the following weekend and play until someone draws the highly sought ace of spades.

MacQuarrie, one of the game’s organizers and the vice-president of the local Royal Canadian Legion, said he expects 15,000 people will descend on Inverness this weekend as the game tightens and the chances of winning increase.

But he said the growing crowds are raising concerns among police and emergency health providers who worry the large number of people might hamper their access to someone in distress.

“We’re not able to facilitate all the needs of the people coming — like basic needs like washrooms and also emergency services,” he said from his home in Inverness.

“Our emergency providers have kind of been on a watch to see how high the risk factors were getting. And now it’s at a critical point.”

The game of chance, which involves finding the ace of spades in a deck of playing cards, saw its jackpot grow from $35 last October to more than $884,000. Also, the person with the winning ticket — and a chance to pick a card — gets 20 per cent of the total ticket sales.

MacQuarrie expects the jackpot to hit $1 million, which led them to add a third venue in the community to host people for the event Saturday.

He says the Broad Cove concert grounds, along with the local legion and arena will be used to accommodate the throngs of people who have been coming in droves to buy tickets, listen to music, play cards and wait to see if they struck it rich.

Compared to the same event last year, MacQuarrie said this Chase the Ace has grown well beyond their expectations with people coming from New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island to play.

“It took on a different life somewhere around the $100,000 mark,” he said. “It’s an interesting phenomenon and has developed its own culture. It has a bit of a carnival feel to it.”

So many people were participating that a temporary cellphone tower was brought in to handle a surge in traffic and it was taking hours to simply get out of the parking lot and back onto the highway nearby.

The draw raised money for the local legion and a centre for adults with intellectual disabilities.

There are six cards left in the deck for the next draw Saturday.

The Canadian Press

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