As the McHenry Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4600’s Queen of Hearts jackpot approaches $5 million, players are taking unique approaches to filling out their tickets with the hopes of being the lucky winner.
Julie Nellessen of Lindenhurst, who was at the VFW on Sunday picking up about 180 tickets for a small group, has taken to ordering preprinted stickers with her and other players’ names and numbers to apply on each ticket. All in, Nellessen said the pack of labels she uses cost about $5.
Other players have taken to buying specialized stamps to sign their tickets.
Mark Matteson of Spring Grove, who was writing out his $40 worth of tickets by hand Sunday, was a fan of that idea. He said he first started playing about six weeks ago when the numbers started getting “ridiculous” and now makes out tickets for his family and members of the military he has served with, as well.
“Now, it’s completely ridiculous,” Matteson said. “This is insane for a local raffle.”
On each ticket, people write their full name and phone number along with the number card on the board they wish to be selected. The remaining numbers are 20, 25, 29, 30, 35, 36, 38, 40, 51 and 54.
At the Aug. 21 drawing, more than 650,000 tickets were sold, which almost filled the VFW’s bin. This is forcing the organization to buy a bigger bin to accommodate the tickets.
The McHenry City Council has raised its raffle prize limit four times, most recently raising the individual prize limit to $6 million Aug. 6, meaning the overall pot can reach $10 million.
Officials have advised that a drawdown scenario, where VFW officials would pull cards until a winner emerges in a single night, would only occur if the pot hits its $10 million maximum or the crowds get out of hand. A McHenry police officer is on hand during each drawing.
But it’s not just the possibility of cashing out that has hundreds of patrons flooding the VFW each week.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Nellessen said. “The food is amazing, and the wait staff is so patient.”
Matteson also complimented the food and said he appreciates that the VFW is open to the public, as some posts are only open to members.
As the jackpot has climbed in the past few months, other VFW revenue streams have seen significant increases.
The McHenry VFW collected about $43,700 in March from its five video gaming machines, according to revenue reports from the Illinois Gaming Board. Subtracting the state’s 30 percent share, the VFW still earned more than $30,000.
But in July, after the state’s share is factored in, video gaming generated nearly $45,000 in revenue for the VFW.
If the queen of hearts is chosen Tuesday, the winner will earn 60 percent of the pot, which comes out to about $2 million after state and federal taxes. If the queen of clubs is picked, the ticket holder would win 5 percent of the pot.
An additional 20 percent of the pot would go back to the VFW, and the final 20 percent would go to starting the next pot, which the VFW announced will start Jan. 8.
Tickets are six for $5, and participants can buy as many tickets as they want. Tickets have to be bought in person at the VFW, which is closed Mondays.
The drawing will be at 8 p.m. Tuesday at the VFW, 3002 Route 120. Participants do not have to be in attendance to win.