After more than three years of negotiations and delays, the state today officially began allowing legalized video gambling at bars, restaurants, truck stops and fraternal organizations.
Illinois Gaming Board Chairman Aaron Jaffe confirmed that video gaming officially went live earlier today. He estimated about 280 machines in about 70 establishments in Illinois are hooked up and ready for use.
Some Chicago-area bar owners confirmed the machines are up and running at their establishments and being used by customers.
Alfonso “Izzy” Izquierdo, owner of Izzy’s bar in Joliet, confirmed this afternoon that the five video gaming machines he installed went online today.
“It’s a big relief,” said Izquierdo, whose bar was approved by the state to operate the machines. “This has been a long, long time coming.”
Phyllis Accardo, owner of Crabby’s Pub in Stickney, said that two of her customers were gambling within 25 minutes of the system going online at her establishment early this afternoon.
The state began testing video poker machines in a few locations last month to allow the gaming board to ferret out any bugs in the central computer system that the state will use to track revenue at each machine and ensure it gets it’s portion of the proceeds.
Tuesday’s official launch day for video gambling comes almost three and a half years after the Illinois General Assembly first approved a measure in May 2009 allowing up to five video poker machines to be installed in truck stops, fraternal organizations and establishments that hold a liquor license.
Revenue from the machines is slate to go toward capital improvement projects in the state.
The implementation was delayed by the lengthy reviews of the license applications filed by the manufacturers, distributors and businesses or clubs that would use the games.
The delay was impacted by a lack of staff at the gaming board to investigate and process all the applications. Hiccups in the state’s efforts to source a central computer system capable of monitoring up to 60,000 video poker machines throughout the state also delayed the start.
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