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Illinois bars (and truck stops) gearing up for legalized video gambling

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Several communities in Illinois are gearing for legalized video gaming. Machines have been moved into some businesses over the past two weeks. They are being tested now, but they could be up and running by Labor Day.

These are the first of what will certainly be tens of thousands of video gaming machines to be installed in Illinois bars, restaurants and truck stops. They were legalized by a bill signed three years ago, a long wait for business owners looking for a new revenue stream.

Bar owner 'Izzy' Izquierdo is excited. He hopes that the five video gaming machines -- that won't be up and running for at least several weeks -- will generate new profit for the business he has owned for 13 years.

"According to the pamphlets I got from the state, about other businesses that have this, revenue has increased," said Izquierdo.

The machines installed Wednesday at Izzy's are among the first 100 legal gambling devices installed in Illinois bars and taverns.

The Illinois State Gaming Board reports that 90 locations have been licensed for video gaming and that 20 have taken delivery of their allotted five terminals. They will accept bets up to a maximum $2, and winning combinations will be no larger than $500.

Izzy's regular Jim Hodgeson watched the technicians at work Wednesday and expects business at the bar to improve.

"Something new, and it is legal. A lot of people cannot afford to go on a boat, and they might come here because it is a smaller place," Hodgeson said.

Video gaming was legalized in Illinois in 2009 when Governor Pat Quinn signed the Illinois Capital Bill to help create jobs. Tax revenue generated by the machines is earmarked to help pay the program's $33 billion cost.

While the dormant devices at Izzy's have not been tested, unemployed electrician John Dolman found work Wednesday installing them.

"It will take off sooner or later once all the bugs and everything get worked out, so I hope that it progresses and gives me more work," Dolman said ."Gives me some more work."

Video gaming machines in bars and restaurants will be monitored at a central location in the western suburbs. Small business owners will not responsible for the customers using them, even those with gambling problems.

"I can't do nothing about that," said Izquierdo. "There's nothing they can do--they can't borrow money from me or anyone else. They gotta use their own money."

The Illinois Gaming Board will begin testing devices at selected locations around the state in the coming weeks, all the while supervising new installations at licensed businesses.

An IGB spokesman reminds that hundreds of cities and towns have opted out of the program and will not allow video gaming in their jurisdictions. He said it could take years for video gaming in bars to reach full effect because the gaming board has only so many people to supervise installations.

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