CHICAGO (CBS)—What began as a quiet fundraiser in the far northwest suburb of McHenry has exploded in a heated game worth millions.

The jackpot in the Queen of Hearts charity raffle in the suburb had reached $2.6 million Tuesday night.

CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole reports from the McHenry VFW Post 4600, where thousands of residents gathered to play the game Tuesday night.

The usually-quiet VFW center was buzzing with excitement, as people are hoping to hit it big in tonight’s drawing.

The sleepy suburb that sits on the Fox River felt more like a Las Vegas casino than a tiny town.

People are showing up in the thousands, prompting some headaches for the VFW center operators.

Some people who showed up Tuesday were regulars, while others were there for the first time, drawn in by the possibility of striking it rich overnight.

“A friend of mine told me, ‘You should go, Bob,’ and I’ve been playing every week, said Bob Morse of Mount Prospect.

VFW Post 4600 in McHenry is buzzing with people playing for a $2.6 million Queen of Hearts jackpot.

Janine Novy demonstrated how easy it is to play the game.

”You just write your name and number on the ticket,” she said.

Everyone fantasizes about what they’d do as a newfound millionaire, including Morse.

“I wouldn’t work on Saturdays—that’s for sure,” he said.

Queen of Hearts is played by guessing which of the sealed and unrevealed cards in the locked cabinet is the queen, and then hope their card is selected.

The jackpot has surpassed the $2 million mark because no one has guessed correctly since November of 2016.

Aside from managing the crowds, officials in McHenry have to navigate state laws.

Illinois’ raffle act, which limits these games mostly to non-profits, requires them to be licensed by local municipalities, which must set limits on the winnings.

McHenry Mayor Wayne Jett said the city council voted twice to raise the jackpot limit since Jan. 1.

The cap is now at $3 million to accommodate the raffle.

There’s no guarantee that someone will win tonight’s game, so it could get bigger.

“In the next two weeks we’ll look for a way to bring it back to council to raise it to five million,” Jett said.

“(We are) absolutely keeping an eye on it and making sure it’s not over that amount,” he said.

Members of Post 4600 hope to use a portion of the winnings on improvements to the building and to help fund medical programs for vets.

 

 

 

 

 

Vince Gerasole