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Legalized video gambling being tested at Joliet bar

Alfonso 'Izzy' Izquierdo president smiles for photos as first five Spielo video lottery machines is positioned Izzy's Wednesday Aug. 1

Alfonso "Izzy" Izquierdo, president, smiles for photos as the first of five Spielo video lottery machines is positioned at Izzy's Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012, at 507 Theodore St. in Joliet. The establishment is the first in Will County to get them. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media

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Customers at Izzy’s Place in Joliet got their first taste of video gambling this week.

Izzy’s is one of eight test sites in Illinois where the technology is being checked for glitches in the final weeks before the state allows video gambling to start for everyone who has a license and the machines. Wednesday was the first day that testing at Izzy’s Place, 507 Theodore St., included customers gambling on the machines.

For six hours, the five machines at Izzy’s were busy “the whole time,” said owner Alfonso “Izzy” Izquierdo. “One would step out, and someone else would come in. Another one would step out, and someone else would come in.”

The state has licensed 341 locations for video gambling.

But only a fraction of those are ready to start, Illinois Gaming Board officials said at a board meeting Thursday.

Gaming board administrator Mark Ostrowski said terminal operators, the companies that actually operate the machines at Izzy’s and other locations, have been slow to deliver.

“We have only one-third of the terminal operators who have their financial information back into the gaming board,” Ostrowski said. “Terminal operators have not coordinated with manufacturers, distributors to get the machines to the locations.”

Izzy’s Place has had machines since Aug. 1, because it is one of the sites where the state has been testing the technology to make sure the system is working when video gambling starts officially.

Izquierdo goes day to day finding out when the machines will be turned on for customers.

He’s not allowed to advertise that he has video gambling, although the arrival of the machines at his bar last month was widely known. Word of mouth gets around pretty well when the machines are turned on, he said.

Not sure when video gambling starts for good, Izquierdo said he’s heard it could be Oct. 1.

The gaming board has not set a date.

“It’s a matter of weeks at this point,” board spokesman Gene O’Shea said.

The gaming board at one point set Labor Day as the target start date.

Izquierdo said his bar is ready.

“I have no idea what the state is doing. It’s hurry up and wait,” he said. “There’s nothing I can do about it.”

Gaming board chairman Aaron Jaffe said the time is near. But that does not mean that video gambling will start at all the bars, social clubs, truck stops and other locations licensed to have the machines.

Jaffe led off the meeting with comments about video gambling and the apparent delay in getting machines to locations.

“We are set to go,” he said. “The problem we face is that a lot of the folks who are saying ‘Go, go, go’ aren’t ready yet.”

But, he added, “If you’re ready to go, we’re ready to go.”

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