MARGAREE — Just when it seemed like the craze was over, Chase the Ace is back.

The latest version of the incredibly popular fundraiser to take off is in Margaree, where the jackpot for the game has the potential to reach one million dollars, a feat that’s already been accomplished three times in Cape Breton over the past three years.

Bolstered by 30 per cent of the weekly ticket sales, the jackpot now sits at just over $650,000, with interest for the next draw expected to push ticket revenues past the $346,000 that was sold for the latest draw that was held on Wednesday.

The next jackpot, July 4, is estimated to reach $875,000, with just three cards left to be drawn.

“We weren’t really expecting the sales to be that high, but I guess that’s what we’re in for now that the jackpot has grown so big,” said Bernice Curley, chair of the organizing committee.

Funds raised from the game are going to the area’s two volunteer fire departments. Since it kicked off last July, the present Chase the Ace game has raised more than one million dollars for the Margaree Volunteer Fire Department and the North East Margaree Volunteer Fire Departments in addition to the more than $400,000 that has been handed out to the 49 draw winners, all of whom failed to select the ace of spades from the now nearly depleted deck.

“This game started after our first one finished last summer and we did good on that, too — the jackpot went for about $72,000,” stated Curley.

In fact, the money raised last year enabled the Margaree (formerly known as Margaree Forks) department to purchase a new fire truck. And, more recently, the present game has helped the North East Margaree department raise enough to purchase a 2000 model fire truck to replace its aging 1978 tanker.

“Our first game went after 26 cards, so it was considered successful, and we thought there was no way this could happen again, but it has and it’s even better this time around — we’re such a small area that we never thought it would grow to what it is now,” said Curley.

“But with just three cards left it will end soon and I guess knowing that is the light at the end of the tunnel for all of our wonderful volunteers.”

Unlike the 2015 Inverness game that captured national attention because of the large crowds that descended on the small west Cape Breton community each Saturday, the Margaree fundraiser doesn’t require the draw winner to be on site. And the tickets are on sale all week long, allowing people to pick them up or have someone else purchase them at their convenience.

“That gives people all week to get their tickets and, for us, there’s the peace of mind knowing that 95 per cent of the ticket sales are already in the bank,” said Curley.

She said the Margaree Firemen’s Club, where the draw has taken place on Wednesday evenings for the past year, has been busy as of late, but not overly crazy like the Inverness experience, where extra security and police were brought in to ensure public safety.

But with the game nearing its completion, she said she won’t be surprised to see lots of extra people visiting the scenic area.

“It’s crazy, no joke, it’s been crazy in Margaree, I went to grocery store last weekend and I never saw so many people in there,” she said.

“There are major spinoffs — the Dancing Goat has seen major traffic from people coming to Margaree to buy their Chase the Ace tickets, the Co-op is busy, the gas station is busy, it’s been busy because people are coming from everywhere and they’re sending money from all over the country.”

With the game’s end nearing, Curley and the other volunteers plan to have a minimum of 400,000 tickets ready to go for the next draw that will take place on July 4. Next week’s draw was postponed until then due to a school graduation ceremony.

If the game does come down to the final card, the draw will take place on July 18. And, if that scenario plays out, the present trend of ticket-buying indicates the winner would take home more than one million dollars.

Englishtown’s Donelda MacAskill claimed a $1.7 million payout at the Inverness game, Sydney’s Donna and Ron McPherson won $2.9 million in the Ashby legion’s game in 2016, and New Waterford’s Adam and Amanda MacKay took home a cheque for $1.7 million in the January 2017 conclusion of the North Sydney game.

For more information about the Margaree game, including a list of places where tickets are sold, visit the Margaree Chase the Ace page on Facebook.