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Barry Dyngles Welcomes Scrutiny as Pot Nears $700K

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio – As the Queen of Hearts jackpot at Barry Dyngles rises to unprecedented levels, so too have calls for greater scrutiny and oversight, a prospect that doesn’t appear to bother the restaurant’s management.

“I think it’s great,” remarks Doug Duganne, general manager of the pub. “We’re following the rules as we know them. If the government wants to step in and change the rules, we’ll be happy to follow those ones, too.”

While the game has been going on for a long time in different venues, the size of the pot at the Raccoon Road restaurant is getting government – and editorial writers’ – attention. But it is the public who is paying the most attention as the jackpot began to accumulate last October.

The Sept. 2 jackpot stood at $524,312. With about 100,000 tickets sold as of Monday morning, Duganne projects the jackpot for this Wednesday’s drawing at $700,000.

“When it first started,  we just needed a little tin-can hopper [to hold] the tickets,” he says. “From there we went to a trash can. Now we’ve outgrown the trash can, too.” For this week’s drawing, he is considering inflating a kiddie swimming pool to hold the tickets.

“We’re trying to figure that out,” he says. “At least they’ll be spread out and we can mix them around.”

Newly purchased tickets are stirred as they are added to the container, he said. “We do stir them constantly,” Duganne says. “Obviously we do the best we can to make sure that they’re mixed up.”

Another change Duganne is planning for this week’s drawing, which he expects upwards of 10,000 people to attend, is using social media to rectify a problem at the drawing two weeks ago. That night, in part due to what was presumably an out-of-town news helicopter flying overhead, people had difficulty hearing the number that was called.

“That was the No. 1 complaint,” he says. This Wednesday, if someone doesn’t come forward right away when the number is called, the ticket will be photographed and posted in Facebook, Instagram and Twitter so people there can get the information on their mobile devices.

By the time the restaurant opened for business at 11 a.m. Monday, 30-plus people were lined up at the door. Those in line were then guided to the rear of the parking lot, where tickets for Wednesday’s drawing were being sold from a tent.

“It’s crazy. I come in 15 minutes early just to rip the tickets,” says Taylor Jones of Austintown, a hostess at the restaurant who also helps sell tickets. “We rip them in 10s and we just keep doing that. … It’s just easier to sell them like that.”

The average number of tickets purchased per person is 50, she says. ‘I’ve actually sold 600 at one time to one single person.”.

With the jackpot’s climb, business has surged at Barry Dyngles.

“It’s been a blessing,” Duganne says. The restaurant has had to hire more staff as the business has grown.

“We’ve been growing anyway but this game really gave us a nice push,” he continues. “Now we’ve introduced a lot of people to our restaurant and our food. We’ve got great food here. So people are coming in, grabbing a rack of ribs and we’ve got new customers for life.”

The game and the activity it’s spawned has been good for the community, bartender Stacy Kello says.

“It’s been hectic,” Kello acknowledges. “I come to work ready to run.”

Kello says she gets calls and texts from people asking when they should come when there isn’t a line. There is typically one already when she arrives for work in the morning.

“I don’t think people expect it to be as busy as it is,” she says. Even so, they are typically able to get through the line in half an hour.

Among those Monday morning hoping to purchase the wining ticket for Wednesday’s drawing was James Wallace of Austintown, who was participating in the drawing for the second time. He spent $20 on tickets, purchasing 10 tickets for him and 10 for his wife, Denise. If he should win, he plans to pay bills and “live a good life after that,” he says.

Should his wife win, “After 29 years of marriage I’m quite sure that I’ll be in her plans as well,” he adds.

Chris Gaca of Canfield has been coming for the drawing for about two months. She, her mother and her brother spend a combined $30 each week. If she wins the jackpot, she plans to put some of the money away for college for her children but also is “going to take a really nice vacation,” she says.

Pictured: The drum where the tickets are placed when they are first sold. That drum will be emptied repeatedly with the tickets going into even larger containers until ultimately a kiddie swimming pool might be used Wednesday to hold more than 100,000 tickets.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.