McHenry VFW Queen of Hearts raffle grows to $1.24M

Elusive Queen of Hearts still on the board

The elusive queen of hearts card remains on the board at McHenry’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4600 as the money pot continues to grow.

People crowded the bar Tuesday night in hopes of a shot at the grand prize. There was about $1.13 million in the raffle pot Tuesday, but that will go up to at least $1.24 million next week.

The owner of the winning card stands to take home 60 percent, less
33 percent in government taxes, which ends up at about $500,000. Tuesday’s winner, which was pulled from the bin by McHenry Mayor Wayne Jett, had a number that corresponded with the king of clubs and won $100.

The game has grown in popularity in the past few weeks, VFW manager Dwane Lungren said.

“We had more in pre-sales than we normally did, which helped,” he said. “We had $85,000 in sales last week, and it has jumped another $20,000.”

The VFW will keep 20 percent of the final pot, and officials have said they plan to remodel and add a beer garden with the money.

Queen of Hearts is a game where 54 cards – a full deck of cards plus two jokers – are shuffled, put in individual envelopes and then numbered and placed on a board. The object is to pick the queen of hearts. Players buy raffle tickets for a chance to pick a card off the board. If both jokers are chosen, the game resets, and all the previously pulled cards return to the board.

Post 4600 hasn’t seen a Queen of Hearts raffle grow this big. This game started with a $7,500 pot in October 2016, and 22 cards now remain on the board. The second joker was pulled and the board reset, which is how the pot has gotten so high, Lungren said.

The city of McHenry has raised its maximum payouts for raffle prizes several times as a result of the surprisingly successful game, city administrator Derik Morefield said.

“We did not see the potential of a raffle such as this when the original ordinance was adopted,” Morefield said. “To be clear, the municipality receives no fees from the issuance of the raffle license or from the winning payout of the raffle.”

The City Council adopted a raffle ordinance several years ago.

In September, City Council members agreed to raise the maximum payout from $100,000 to $500,000.

In March, city officials agreed to raise the maximum again – this time to allow for cash prizes up to $1 million.

On Monday, City Council officials will consider raising payout limits to $3 million.

In the past, Queen of Hearts raffles with hefty cash prizes have caused legal snarls for the VFW posts that host them.

Morris VFW Post 6049 had to put its $1.59 million raffle on hold in 2017 because the city didn’t have a code that dictated raffle rules, a limit on what can be charged per ticket and the prize amount that can be awarded.

Neither the city nor Grundy County had that type of ordinance.

A LaSalle man won the first million-dollar Morris pot in September before a Sycamore man won the second pot in March in a second drawdown situation – where the bar pulled tickets until a winner was announced once it reached a certain point. Josh Billips’ ticket was the 12th drawn, while LaSalle’s Kevin Repsel won the first pot with the final card of the 54-card board.

McHenry must maintain regulations for payouts in order to comply with state laws and avoid that type of situation, Morefield said.

“Even as a home rule community, McHenry has to identify some raffle maximum,” Morefield said. “However, this is not defined by the state and is up to the municipality. …There has to be some established cap.”

Queen of Hearts drawings are held at 8 p.m. every Tuesday.

Ticket sales begin Wednesday and run until 7:30 p.m. the next Tuesday leading into the drawing, whenever the bar is open.

Tickets are six for $5, and participants can buy as many tickets as they want.

Participants must be at least 18 years old to play and do not have to be present to win. The VFW only accepts cash for tickets.

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