New game, big changes for Queen of Hearts raffle at McHenry VFW
After a nine-month breather, the Queen of Hearts is returning to McHenry VFW Post 4600 with many changes since last fall, when the weekly drawing became an unexpected, jam-packed phenomenon attracting would-be millionaires from far and wide.
It was slow but steady at Post 4600 Tuesday as tickets for the new game went on sale. The first drawing is June 18 and the starting jackpot is $3.4 million.
Organizers have taken several measures to control crowds and make the process more efficient for players and staff members, all while upgrading the building, grounds and even the menu at Post 4600 on Route 120 east of the Fox River.
Tickets this time cost $5 each, rather than six for $5, but someone is guaranteed to win from $5,000 to $30,000 every week the Queen of Hearts remains hidden. Last year, those who got their tickets drawn but whose chosen number didn't reveal the big prize walked away with a $100 consolation prize.
And the new game will be a limited edition, with drawings every Tuesday night only through July 30, if necessary, when the pot will be dispersed if it hasn't been.
"The big difference is $5 for each ticket and a limited deck of cards," said Dwane Lungren, post commander.
The last game had 54 cards -- a full deck plus two jokers -- and because the Queen of Hearts week after week remained hidden, it continued for nearly a year.
As a result, the jackpot -- and number of players -- grew exponentially until organizers decided to keep drawing until a winner of the $7 million jackpot emerged.
"In that two-week span, the jackpot increased almost $3 million, which is amazing," Lungren said. That created a parking and logistical nightmare for McHenry police and VFW volunteers as crowds swelled.
For this game, only 22 cards -- 10s through aces in every suit and two jokers -- will be in play. That means a guaranteed winner even if the Queen of Hearts remains under wraps.
Perhaps the biggest change is a concrete parking lot built to replace the expanse of unlined gravel and grass that turned to mud when it rained. Entry and exit is one way with ticket buyers funneled to a trailer in front of the building where tickets are sold only during designated hours on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
Another change is that the winner will get 50% rather than 60% percent, after taxes, of the jackpot and the VFW will get 40% rather than 20%. The VFW has used its share from last year's game to build the parking lot and modernize electrical service and other systems at its expansive facility. More work is to come.
"It's not about the money. It's about the upgrades. We want to stay here in McHenry. That's the goal," Lungren said.