Warren Woman Wins $1.8M Queen of Hearts Jackpot

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio – Some people around Austintown have been playing the Barry Dyngles Pub queen of hearts game since it began almost a year ago. But as fate would have it, it was a newcomer, Molly Blair of Warren, who will walk away with $1,804,709.

Blair bought 25 tickets Saturday, her first time playing the game. The winning ticket found the elusive queen of hearts hiding beneath number 15 on the game board.

Multiple phone calls to Blair went unanswered, her phone ringing busy all night long. The Business Journal subsequently learned that at the advice of her attorney, she is not doing media interviews.

“She was at a wedding in Warren and watching it live online,” said Doug Duganne, general manager of Barry Dyngles. “When she saw it was her name and her number, she flew like a bat out of hell to get here. It’s amazing that we’ve had people playing all this time, and someone who got tickets for the first time just yesterday, is the one who wins.”

Duganne described Blair as “just the nicest lady. I’m really glad she’s the one who won.”

Blair and Duganne met in the manager’s office where they discussed the steps she must take. He advised the winner to meet with her banker and a lawyer to take care of the paperwork. Once that’s done, he said, the restaurant would transfer the money to Blair, most likely through a wire transfer. Her post-tax winnings, he added, should come to about $1.1 million.

“It certainly won’t be tomorrow [that we pay her],” he said. “But I’d imagine she’ll get her money within a week.”

Before Blair left the restaurant, she posed for a picture with the restaurant staff, holding her winning ticket and the queen of hearts.

In accordance with Ohio law, which forbids the sponsor of the game from taking so much as a handling fee, Blair will receive 100% of the jackpot. Last week, in an effort to reduce the size of the crowds that have grown every week, the restaurant announced a rule change that said the eventual winner would get all of the money. Before that, if a winner wasn’t on site when their ticket was pulled, he would receive only half, the balance rolled over to the opening pot of the next game.

“I’m excited for her, I really am. This is a life-changer,” the restaurant manager said. “I’m very relieved. It’s been a wild ride the last two months.”

Adding to the excitement of Sunday night was a live performance from Red Wanting Blue, an indie rock band based in Columbus who played some of their first shows in the Youngstown area. The show, announced Thursday, attracted a different crowd, Duganne noted.

“I’ve talked to a few people outside who asked about what’s going on and why people are lined up, so there are people here who came just for [Red Wanting Blue],” Duganne said before the drawing.

The crowd swelled to between 4,000 and 5,000 by the time of the drawing. Red Wanting Blue lead singer Scott Terry said the venue was unlike any other where the band has played.

“It’s extremely rare to find something like this popping up,” Terry said. “In all of the time I’ve been running around the country playing music, I’ve never had a last minute [call like this]. In light of the fact that it’s Youngstown, Ohio … and one of our earliest stomping grounds, when we were asked, we knew we could figure out a way to make it work. So we did.”

Terry was invited to draw a ticket from the tumbler and announce the name on stage. Blair’s ticket was the first one he grabbed, he said.

“I dug in and fished around and got a hold of one ticket that I never let go of. They said I could shuffle around and mix them up, but I felt that wasn’t fair to the ticket I had pulled,” Terry said. “There was a little bit of showmanship where I just moved around.”

At first, he continued, he hesitated because “I don’t want a bunch of people mad at us because we’re the ones who drew the ticket.

“I tried to give [drummer] Dean [Anshutz], the Youngstown guy, the job, but when I came back he was like, ‘There’s no way.’ Everyone said it had to be me and I was just …” His voice trailed off. After pulling the ticket, he groaned loudly.

Following a hiatus of a couple of weeks, the game will return to Barry Dyngles, Duganne said. Details are still being worked out, but already the restaurant has bought the board and is prepared for the next queen of hearts.

While the first drawing sold 156 tickets last October, the manager expects the pot to be much larger the second time.

“Hopefully it’s more than $156, Duganne laughed. “I don’t think it’ll be half a million again, but it’ll be more than [the first drawing].

“We’ll take a week or two off and look at all our options. In Columbus, they’re freaking out. So we’re going to wait and see what they have to say about the legality and paying out the pot. But we will do it again,” he promised. “It’s just a matter of figuring out when.”

Pictured: Molly Blair holds her winning ticket and the queen of hearts she selected behind No. 15 on the game board.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.