Highland News Leader

Popular raffle might bring good fortune to Highland

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.

It looks like Highland might be getting a Queen of Hearts raffle of its own.

During a Highland City Council meeting on Nov. 20, Kent Wiese, president of the Madison County Licensed Beverage Association, gave a presentation about what it would entail to bring the raffle to Highland.

“We have had a good relationship with the city of Highland and our board voted to ask Highland to allow us to do Queen of Hearts,” Wiese said.

Queen of Hearts raffles have been becoming popular in Southern Illinois for the past two years. There have been 45 of the games in 33 cities in the metro-east, Wiese said. Recent local jackpots have reached $1.09 million. When the drawings get that high, they have potential to draw big crowds to small areas.

As for the rules, each player buys a $1 ticket so they have the chance of being drawn to choose a playing card from a board. If the queen of hearts is picked, the person wins the jackpot and the game starts over. If not, the game continues for another week. There are 54 cards, so the game has potential to continue for more than a year with the jackpot increasing as each ticket is sold.

The game also helps non-profit organizations, which may be struggling, to find income to support causes.

Take a look at the crowd at Aviston's Queen of Hearts drawing at the American Legion.

The beverage association promotes retail businesses that sell or serve alcohol. It holds an annual golf event that raises money for the Shriners Hospitals for Children and donates to local municipalities. The organization also made contributions to drug and substance abuse awareness and Christmas programs, such as Christmas with a Cop in Highland.

Wiese said tax increases, regulations on members and a diminishing membership hurt the organization’s ability to donate. As a result, the association asked Wiese to find a way to improve its ability to raise funding for charity, on-going training and possibly create new memberships. The raffle was one of those options.

A recent Belleville News-Democrat investigation revealed that some Queen of Hearts raffles have not been implemented correctly by local municipalities. But Wiese said he believes Highland can do it right, though it will entail some extensive work on behalf of the city and his organization.

“Allow Highland to be one of the first municipalities to do everything correctly,” Wiese said.

What did the council say?

Each council member said they were in favor of bringing the raffle to Highland.

“I would like to go forward with this,” Councilwoman Peggy Bellm said.

Councilman Rick Frey said he had reservations about letting the beverage association do the raffle in Highland.

“What kind of feedback are we going to get because this isn’t a local organization?” Frey said.

File video: The Nashville American Legion had one of the area's first big pots. Now the Steeleville American Legion's jackpot has passed $1.4 million.

Wiese touched on that as well.

“MCLBA also sees the potential to work with other not-for-profit organizations around Highland, creating a stronger relationship, not only with the city, but also other charity groups,” Wiese said.

All in all, Frey said anything that brings more people to town, for whatever reason, is a good thing.

“I have no problem with it,” Frey said.

Councilman Aaron Schwarz agreed with Frey about bringing people to town, but said he would like to explore the other benefits the raffle could bring the city.

“I think its a good idea,” Schwarz said.

Councilman Neill Nicolaides said he was in favor of continuing with it.

The council gave its blessing for city leaders to continue pursuing a raffle for Highland, but agreed on one stipulation.

“We want to make sure everything is legal,” Bellm said.

Mayor Joe Michaelis agreed.

“I don’t want us to end up on a front page,” Michaelis said.

Where does it go from here?

City Manager Mark Latham said that during the next few months, city leaders will be working to draft the various points of the ordinance for raffles, and specifically, the Queen of Hearts.

Among the issues the city must determine:

▪ A jackpot cap;

▪ Whether to use pin numbers for the drawing and whether to cap the number of pins;

▪ Where and when to hold drawings;

▪ When and where tickets will be sold;

▪ Which organization will get the raffle certificate.

Latham estimated that the plan could start coming together sometime beginning in January.

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