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United States

Anti-gambling activist wins US$25,000, will keep the cash because ‘it’s God showing his grace’

‘I called a pastor friend … He said, don’t feel guilty, you just got paid for all your volunteer work against gambling’

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 December, 2017, 12:44pm
UPDATED : Friday, 29 December, 2017, 12:44pm

Kathy Gilroy has crusaded against gambling in Illinois for decades, speaking out against casinos, illegal raffles and the recent wave of video poker cafes.

As one of the most visible gaming opponents in the state, she has warned that the vice erodes society’s values and work ethic, takes money from poor people and can lead to addiction, bankruptcy, crime and suicide.

Just this year, she blew the whistle on a US$1.6 million Queen of Hearts raffle put on by the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in rural Morris, forcing it to shut down hours before the planned drawing, until the raffle was properly licensed.

So even she concedes it may seem ironic that she recently won US$25,000 by playing a sweepstakes game at a gambling cafe in her hometown of Villa Park.

“I called a pastor friend, and said, ‘Oh my God, should I send it back? What do I do? Do I donate it?’ ” she said. “He said, ‘Don’t feel guilty, you just got paid for all your volunteer work against gambling.’ It’s God showing his grace on me.”

It’s ironic that someone who’s anti-gambling would enter something like that. That’s a little hypocrisy there, don’t you think?
Jerry Zeborowski, whose charity raffle was shut down by Kathy Gilroy

Despite her long-time anti-gambling activism, it turns out Gilroy has a history of playing and winning sweepstakes. She said she’s landed prizes including electronics and trips to the Bahamas and California. She once won a big-screen TV from a mechanic, but asked instead for US$1,000 in service. A week later, her transmission went out, and she quickly got her money’s worth.

She’ll even play the video poker machines at gambling cafes if she is given a free promo card.

The distinction Gilroy makes is that she was not spending her own money to gamble. She enters sweepstakes because, by state law, they must be made available free of charge. And – unlike the VFW game that was not licensed, as required by law – she says the sweepstakes she plays are perfectly legal.

Still, Morris VFW Commander Jerry Zeborowski was perplexed to hear that Gilroy had won a sweepstakes.

“It’s ironic that someone who’s anti-gambling would enter something like that,” he said. “That’s a little hypocrisy there, don’t you think?”

Gilroy, 68, who works selling supplemental health insurance for people on Medicare, shrugs off the negative comments she’s got over the years, such as when she succeeded in halting a raffle to raise money for needy college students because it was unlicensed and not put on by a non-profit, as required by law.

But she admitted she did have to think twice about this situation.

She worried that her winnings were proceeds from money that people lost gambling, but decided that it comes out of the profits of the parent company, Laredo Hospitality Ventures.