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Aurora approves moratorium on progressive raffles

Updated: March 28, 2014 8:23AM

AURORA — Aurora aldermen unanimously approved a moratorium on progressive raffles in the city Tuesday night.

The six-month moratorium is designed to tackle big-winning raffles where the pot multiplies over a course of time.

Aurora Chief of Staff Carie Anne Ergo said Tuesday night that the city has already halted issuing progressive raffle licenses. Even if City Council did not approve the moratorium, social clubs would still not be allowed to hold progressive raffles under the current rules.

“By a strict interpretation of the ordinance, progressive raffles are not allowable,” Ergo said. “Therefore, the ordinance needs to be looked at and updated to reflect the current environment.”

Ergo said social clubs also aren’t a permitted category of raffle licensees under the current ordinance.

Alderman Rick Mervine, 8th Ward, said the city had two choices: a moratorium to investigate next steps “or all bets were off, so to speak.”

“I think we owe it to the people that are members of the club… to look into this and do this right and handle it properly,” he said. “The alternative is everybody loses.”

Before the vote, aldermen voted unanimously to add language to the moratorium that states that city officials bring an update to City Council on the progressive raffle issue by April 25.

About eight Aurora social club members addressed City Council ahead of the vote.

Montgomery resident Rick Waszkowiak said the progressive raffles Aurora’s Tiger Athletic Club has had helped support numerous sports programs. The club’s highest jackpot was about $42,000, shared between members, he said.

“There are far too many vacant and torn down buildings already. Our community depends on us,” Waszkowiak said. “For some clubs, six months will be too long to wait. We’ve had quite a few fold already.”

Bobby Miller of Oswego said AMVETS Post 103 works with grade schools, donates to veterans organizations and helps out the food pantry. The post’s current progressive raffle license expires April 15.

“It’s not just putting a hold on the raffle, it’s putting a hold on two of our best nights at the club,” Miller said.

Mayor Tom Weisner said the moratorium was the most efficient way to address the progressive raffle issue. The city wants to come back to City Council with new recommendations in less than six months and wants to include Aurora social clubs in the review process, he said.

“If people are concerned about revenues in the meantime, I would have to question why, with exception of very few of the groups, no one applied for a video gaming license after the city went to bat for them when they were not approved originally by the state,” Weisner said.

Organizations that currently hold a license for a traditional or progressive raffle will be allowed to play out that raffle during the moratorium, according to Ergo. New progressive raffle licenses would not be issued under the moratorium. As a nod to past practice, Aurora social clubs will be issued traditional raffle licenses during the moratorium, Ergo said.

In January, 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.

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