Where, Oh Where, Is the Queen of Hearts?

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio — The parking lot at Barry Dyngles  was packed shoulder to shoulder and as many patrons as permitted were crowded inside as the $524,312 Queen of Hearts jackpot awaited one lucky ticket holder.

But not tonight.

Instead, with 10 cards left to reveal on the game board, the ticket that was drawn — one of 194,843 — had the number 12 written on it. The name on the ticket was Mel Bowen.

Behind the number 12 was queen of clubs — not the queen of hearts.

Still, Bowen won $52,000.

The Business Journal initially reported that Bowen was not present at the drawing and would win just $25,000. With the noise of the crowd, and difficulty hearing exactly whose name was announced, he was not identified immediately as being inside the restaurant. Eventually he and his fiance, Marie Latone, came forward and claimed their prize.

According to the rules, flipping a queen pays 10% of the jackpot but winners must be present at the drawing. If they are not, they receive half of the prize.

“We actually had a winner tonight. It’s a payday for somebody,” Duganne said before Bowen was identified. “Queen of hearts is the only paying card left now. With almost 200,000 [tickets] sold this week, we’re going to be upward of three-quarters of a million.”

At $524,312, tonight’s prize was the largest ever raised by the Queen of Hearts game, according to reports. Nannicola Bingo Supply, the company Barry Dyngles purchased the board from, said the largest drawing their company knows of was around $470,000, Duganne said.

The crowd, by Duganne’s estimate was between 6,000 and 8,000 .

“There were people all the way down the street on both sides. It was absolutely crazy,” he said. “I’m not even going to try to count the crowd, but it was somewhere in that range.”

And once again, the outdoor food table, where patrons waiting outside could get something to eat, ran out of food around 7:30, something that’s happened almost every week, one employee said.

On Sunday, Barry Dyngles ran out of food completely, Duganne said, and had to wait for a delivery, forcing the restaurant to wait until 4 p.m. Monday to open its doors to customers again.

“We had to close down and couldn’t reopen until all that prep work had been done,” he said. “So business-wise, it’s been really good for us.”

The next drawing will be two weeks from tonight, said Duganne. The restaurant, 1601 S. Raccoon Road, will be closed Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, he explained, which means fewer people would be able to buy tickets. The week off from the drawing is also a welcome break for the Barry Dyngles staff, who spent the night constantly moving from table to table, both inside and out.

“I’m ready for a break, yeah,” he said with a tired smile. “We’re down to nine cards now. So we are getting there.”

Even with nearly 200,000 tickets sold over the past week, in the hours leading up to the event, most customers felt they had the winner for the full jackpot.

“I’m going to go buy a car, maybe a jet,” said Dan Mileta from New Springfield. “I know I’ll spend it as fast as I can. Yeah, I think I do have the winning one here.”

Denise Italiano, who played the last several weeks, said she, too, was going home with all the cash.

“I didn’t get it last week, but you’ll see me up there tonight. I’m going to win,” she said an hour before the drawing.

Others, however, kept the odds in mind and their hopes tempered.

“I’m going to put my son through college,” said Tony Meranto of Canfield. “The fact that it’s more than 100,000 to one [odds of your ticket being drawn] keeps me grounded a little bit. I’ll probably be at work in the morning.”

Meranto was one of the many new regular customers that Barry Dyngles has made since the drawings began last October.

“I’ll absolutely be back,” he said. “My friends are regulars here and always have a table. We’ll be back.”

Pictured: Restaurant general manager Doug Duganne announces whose ticket was drawn and the number he picked.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.