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Video gambling under way at Joliet test site

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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Updated: October 22, 2012 6:29AM

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

Izzy’s is one of eight test sites where gaming 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.

While no machines in the Fox Valley are in the early testing program, video gaming is coming to the area. Among the villages that already have approved having the machines are Burlington, Hampshire, South Elgin, Pingree Grove and Gilberts. East Dundee is scheduled to take a vote this month on the issue.

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 that terminal operators, the companies that actually operate the machines located 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, since 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 good 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,” said board spokesman Gene O’Shea. Asked if Oct. 1 is the date, O’Shea simply repeated, “It’s a matter of weeks.”

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 Thursday that 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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