One of the headlines in the news, especially in Newfoundland, but also nationally is:
Newfoundland couple wins $2.6-million Chase the Ace jackpot in final night of lottery
According to one blogger, Chase the Ace is a phenomenon in Newfoundland and Labrador. In 2014, just two lottery licenses for the game were issued; for 2017 alone, at least 283 have been granted to churches and community groups across the province in order to raise funds. I find it interesting that he also referred to this phenomenon as “a new religion.”
When I read this statement, I wasn’t quite sure how I felt, maybe a little uncomfortable. I decided to seek a definition and without even leaving my laptop, google told me: religion is a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance,
It seems the word “religion” accurately represents the Chase the Ace phenomena because hundreds of people would line up for hours with funds to purchase tickets. What was the motivation? While it was ultimately about raising money for the church, the primary motivator of the participants was the desire for profit, not about giving (even though the cause was a good one). Right below that definition of religion, it states that “consumerism is the new religion.” While this lottery is a successful means of fundraising, what created the enthusiasm among the people was the desire for wealth, which is driven by consumerism.
Here is the structure of the Chase the Ace lottery: the consolation prize was 20% of the day’s ticket sales, while 30% accumulated into the jackpot that was awarded if a ticket-winner drew the Ace of Spades from a diminishing deck of cards. The other 50% went to the parish (charity). Interestingly, there is little focus in the media on the amount raised for the church except that: Organizers say they will know how much money the lottery raised in a couple of days. There is no doubt this fund-raising was a huge success and much more was raised this way than by passing an offering plate around on Sunday.
Here is my point: most people weren’t focused at all on giving, yet 50% was being given away. They were “tricked,” for lack of a better term, into giving half of their money away. What was everyone focusing on? Maybe partially on giving. The primary focus though, was on receiving, or winning the prize. There was a building of excitement each week as the Ace was not drawn and the jackpot (30% of ticket sales) continued to grow. Even the 20% (consolation prize) created great anticipation.
Interestingly, Newfoundland and Labrador’s provincial motto is an admonishment from Jesus Christ: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God.” The promise is that when we do this, tomorrow will take care of itself; but it seems like we no longer place any confidence in these words. One of the ways to put God’s kingdom first is to give, and trust Him for our provision. Instead, giving is disguised as a lottery and we trust in our own abilities for tomorrow’s provision, even if it comes from a lottery.
The fact is most of us have simply lost the focus and excitement of giving, because we would much rather receive. Obviously, the vast majority of those who bought tickets did not win anything, so their only consolation is that they gave 50%, but most of these probably feel they lost the entire value of their ticket. I think the truth is that most had little thought for the amount they were actually giving to charity. Isn’t it still true though, that it is more blessed to give than to receive?”