Man wins $277K in McHenry VFW Queen of Hearts raffle

Jackpot reaches $6M, but only 8 cards left

Matt K. now is a very wealthy man.

He won $277,622 Tuesday night at the wildly popular Queen of Hearts drawing at the McHenry Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4600.

Matt K. wasn’t at the drawing, but he can claim his winnings Wednesday.

After state and federal taxes, he’ll walk away with $186,007.

Still, the coveted queen of hearts card remains. The promise of winning millions of dollars keeps thousands of people from across the region flocking to the post every week.

The jackpot swelled to $6,077,599 after Tuesday’s drawing.

The game has seen an explosion of interest as the jackpot grows, sparking headlines across the region and inspiring other veterans organizations to launch their own games. More than 960,000 tickets were sold for Tuesday’s drawing.

“It’s a good relief. It makes us feel a little better,” VFW Cmdr. Dwane Lungren said, adding that he has been interviewed by nearly every area newspaper, radio and TV station. “Now all the paid cards are gone – besides the queen of hearts.”

Lungren said food and drink sales are through the roof, and the organization ran out of cold beer Tuesday after all 50 cases were sold.

“With food we’ve been OK. It’s the beer we’ve been running out of,” Lungren said. “We have like 72 cases of beer, and we probably went through 50 tonight.”

Time is running out to join in on the contest, as only eight cards remain. The remaining numbers are 20, 25, 30, 36, 38, 40, 51 and 54.

If the queen of hearts is chosen next week, the winner will earn 60 percent of the pot, which is about $2.4 million after state and federal taxes.

Another 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 for next week’s drawing can be bought at the VFW, 3002 Route 120, every day except Monday, when the VFW is closed.

A new set of tickets is put into the bin each week. The VFW recently bought a custom $5,000 steel barrel to accommodate more tickets. On Tuesday, the more than 500-gallon barrel was a third full.

Vietnam veteran David Bothum, who was chosen to pluck the ticket from the vat, said he’d pay off his daughter’s student loans, pay off his home and give to his church and charities if he won.

But it’s not only the chance of winning that keeps him coming back each week.

“It’s the camaraderie, the fun of it and the food,” he said.

The McHenry City Council has raised its raffle prize limit four times. However, some City Council members expressed concerns regarding the increasing popularity of the game – and the traffic it causes.

Lungren said he’s making adjustments to keep the game fun and safe.

Last month, Lungren said if a final card is left, the event becomes too crowded or the jackpot hits $10 million, a drawdown will occur, meaning tickets will be chosen until a winner is named.

On Tuesday, he told the Northwest Herald that the organization will discuss whether to opt for a drawdown.

“We’re going to have a meeting tomorrow night to figure out what our next step is,” he said. “We want to keep it safe. ... Most people we have no problems with – they’re very positive. They keep coming back.”

The McHenry Police Department encourages motorists not participating in the drawing to avoid the area. Traffic on Route 120 slowed to a crawl Tuesday afternoon, but the event has been peaceful.

The VFW is reimbursing the police department for the cost of their services.

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