Metro-East News

Someone picked the queen of hearts at the Aviston raffle. But the fun isn’t over yet.

Crowd lines up early for $1 million-plus Queen of Hearts raffle

A crowd began forming early Wednesday afternoon outside the Aviston American Legion, where a $1 million-plus Queen of Hearts raffle drawing was to be held at 8 p.m. People said they wanted to get seats and tables when the hall opened at 3 p.m.
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A crowd began forming early Wednesday afternoon outside the Aviston American Legion, where a $1 million-plus Queen of Hearts raffle drawing was to be held at 8 p.m. People said they wanted to get seats and tables when the hall opened at 3 p.m.

Although the queen of hearts was finally selected after more than 40 weeks at the American Legion in Aviston on Wednesday, the raffle will not end yet.

Officials drew a ticket purchased by Dan Wiegmann, of New Baden. Wiegmann, however, was in California.

He was contacted by phone, and a pre-selected card written on the back of his ticket was pulled from the board. The card Wiegmann chose, card number one, turned out to be the coveted queen of hearts.

The Legion’s rules state that if a person is not present when their ticket is drawn, they receive half of the prize money, so Wiegmann will receive $544,995. The pot was $1,089,989.

The rest of the money will roll over to start an entirely new board in March, according to Legion official Mark Hilmes. There will be no PIN registration in March, according to a post on the Legion’s Facebook page, meaning that no new players will be able to join the rollover game.

The Legion’s next Queen of Hearts raffle will be March 14. Ticket sales will start again March 7.

“We’re ready for another crowd next time. It’s no problem; we’re ready for it,” Hilmes said.

On Wednesday afternoon, a bartender at the Legion said they were hoping the queen would be selected.

“We’ve been working really hard, and we all would like a break,” he said.

Hilmes also said the Legion donated $10,000 from a separate 50/50 raffle to Shriners Hospital for Children in St. Louis after a fire destroyed toys and blankets intended for kids through the Shriner’s Toy Drive.

In a previous interview, Mayor Dale Haukap said while the raffle brings money to the city and supports charitable causes, most of the city was hoping the raffle would end soon due to the crowds. Each week, Aviston has had at least 6,000 people pour into the town, which has a population of about 2,000 and covers about 1.6 square miles.

“It’s a benefit for a small community, but we’ve got more people in town than people who live here,” he said.

On Nov. 15, a Belleville News-Democrat investigation revealed legal concerns with some Queen of Hearts raffles in Illinois.

The Legion in Aviston has a license issued by the city, but it never filled out an application. The license did not include criteria that appear to be mandated by state law.

Haukap said he recognized the city made a mistake and is now having the Legion fill out an application.

Kaley Johnson: 618-239-2526, @KaleyJohnson6

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