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Aurora aldermen are set to vote on moratorium on progressive raffles

Updated: March 25, 2014 6:23AM

AURORA — Aurora aldermen said they expect to hear from a number of Aurora social clubs Tuesday night ahead of a proposed moratorium on progressive raffles.

The proposed six-month moratorium is designed to tackle big-winning raffles where the pot multiplies over a course of time, said Aurora Director of Communications Clayton Muhammad.

Alderman Bob O’Connor, At-large, said he plans to vote in favor of the moratorium Tuesday night.

“If we’re dealing only with the progressive ones, that’s fine,” O’Connor said.

Alderman Bill Donnell, 4th Ward; Alderman Mike Saville, 6th Ward; Alderman Scheketa Hart-Burns, 7th Ward; and Alderman Rick Mervine, 8th Ward, also plan to vote in favor of the moratorium this week, they said.

“I think what we found out was that current ordinances weren’t being enforced appropriately,” Saville said. “(This is) a good opportunity to gather some information and assess the ordinances to see what is the best solution.”

Saville, who has served in City Council since 1985, said moratoriums in the city are rare. He can only remember two instances since 1983 that the city’s mayor has moved for a moratorium.

Alderman Edward Bugg, 9th Ward, and Alderman Richard Irvin, At-large, both said they are undecided on the progressive raffle issue. Irvin said he will look to private clubs and the city for more input before the vote.

On Jan. 31, more than 600 people showed up at the Aurora Phoenix Club for a Queen of Hearts raffle drawing. The raffle, which has been building all year at the private social club in the Pigeon Hill neighborhood, produced a contest jackpot worth $210,000.

City ordinance forbids all raffle organizers from giving away jackpots that exceed $100,000.

Aurora Chief of Staff Carie Anne Ergo said the city’s current raffle ordinance doesn’t address progressive raffles.

“Under a very strict legal interpretation of the current ordinance, progressive raffles aren’t even permitted,” Ergo said.

Quick resolution?

Several aldermen said Friday they would like city officials to come back to Council with new ordinance recommendations in less than six months. Mervine said that the “essentially illegal” raffles needed to be addressed.

“Having said that, I would hope that the time that it takes to evaluate this and come up with a solution will be short and not anywhere near that six month period,” Mervine said.

Phoenix Club President Craig Bonifas said that while Aurora social clubs would rather not halt progressive raffles, he understands the city’s need to rewrite current ordinances.

“I’d offer any help I can to move it forward so we can get this over with,” said Bonifas, who has been a member of the club since 1979.

The Phoenix Club held its first Queen of Hearts raffle in September 2012. The latest big-money raffle was the club’s third game. The first and second game produced pots around $2,000, Bonifas said, much less than January’s $210,000 prize.

The club does not currently have an active progressive raffle permit, he said. The raffles brought in a lot of business during the club’s slowest part of the year — summertime, Bonifas said.

As part of an earlier compromise with the city, the club donated $23,580 to the Fox Valley United Way, Bonifas confirmed Friday.

Organizations that currently hold a license for a traditional or progressive raffle will be allowed to play out that raffle if the moratorium is approved, according to Ergo. New progressive raffle licenses would not be issued under the moratorium.

Alderman Kristina “Tina” Bohman, 1st Ward, is a member of the Turners and Phoenix Club, and participated in Phoenix Club’s most recent Queen of Hearts raffle.

When asked if aldermen who belong to social clubs will be advised by the city attorney to abstain from the raffle vote, Muhammad said the city’s Legal Department is researching the issue and will provide guidance to alderman ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

Bohman said she would support the current moratorium plan.

Aldermen will vote on the proposed moratorium on progressive raffles at 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 44 E. Downer Place. If approved, the moratorium would take effect immediately.

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