A Schaumburg woman became a multimillionaire Tuesday night.
Lori Skoniecke won the McHenry Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4600 Queen of Hearts raffle after her white ticket was plucked from a giant horse trough that housed 2.3 million tickets.
After about two years of play at the VFW, the game ended after a drawdown that brought more than 1,000 people to the facility.
Skoniecke’s white ticket was the fourth one drawn by McHenry Mayor Wayne Jett. She picked card 54, but because 54 already was taken, the drawing defaulted to card 25, which was the lowest card that had not yet been called. Card 25 revealed the queen of hearts.
The Northwest Herald independently confirmed the name of the winner. The VFW did not provide her name.
Skoniecke, who has siblings who live in McHenry County, was not at the drawing, so she got the good news by phone. She did not respond to interview requests from the Northwest Herald other than to say she was not available Tuesday night.
VFW Cmdr. Dwane Lungren said the winner called him a few times Tuesday night and again Wednesday morning. He said she hired an attorney and accountant.
“We’re working with her right now,” Lungren said Wednesday, adding that he eventually will meet with her at an undisclosed location. “She was happy. She was grateful. She thanked us 100 times.”
Deb Scott, a friend and co-worker at the Schaumburg Park District, said Skoniecke deserves it. Skoniecke works as a building coordinator, according to the district’s website.
“I can’t think of anyone else who would be as deserving. She’s awesome, she really is,” Scott said.
Skoniecke will keep 60 percent of the $7,080,528 pot, which is about $2.8 million after taxes. An additional 20 percent of the pot will go back to the VFW.
The next game, with 54 new tickets, will not begin until Jan. 8. When it does, 20 percent of the final pot from this game, along with the ticket sales revenue from this final week, will go toward the opening pot of the next game.
Tickets for the next round will be sold in December. The pot will start at $3,412,059.
“We’ve got [to] first sit down with the city and go over a few more things,” Lungren said, adding that the next round will be postponed if the VFW’s new asphalt parking lot is unfinished. “In the next couple weeks, we’ll learn more.”
Lungren said they could adjust some of the rules and re-evaluate payouts.
“We want to learn from the city about what they saw that was wrong and fix that first,” he said.
A ‘smooth’ event
Lungren said Tuesday’s event went smoothly overall.
“After we kicked people out of [the bar], it went a lot smoother,” he said. “We were at capacity. We did it once, voluntarily and nicely the first time, but the second time, the police had to come up here and shut down the bar to force people out. They thought I was kidding. ... We had to put the bar on a timeout for a little bit.”
Still, the event was a success because “we had no problems,” Lungren said.
When asked about complaints from some ticket buyers about the choice to abandon the 5,000-gallon drum for a trough, Lungren said it was the only reasonable option. He said fears that tickets bought earlier in the week would be left at the bottom were unfounded.
“It was well-mixed, and we churned it again before [Jett] picked,” Lungren said.
VFW event manager Kelly Ozyuk also said the tickets were churned numerous times.
“My back is sore from mixing it,” she said.
The VFW returned to normal operations Wednesday, and dozens of residents turned out for morning bingo. Bingo was halted last week for Queen of Hearts ticket sales.
“We didn’t have the room for it,” Lungren said. “It’s a little bit quiet right now. I think everybody has a little bit of a Queen hangover. People are giving us a break.”