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Legal Video Gambling Finally A Reality In Illinois

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Video Poker machine. (CBS)

Video Poker machine. (CBS)

Marissa Bailey (CBS) Marissa Bailey
Marissa Bailey is the weekend anchor of the CBS 2 Chicago morning...
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STICKNEY, Ill. (CBS) – After three years of waiting, legalized video gambling in Illinois has finally begun going live at Illinois bars, restaurants, and other locations.

The Illinois Gaming Board has approved licenses for 341 various businesses, fraternal organizations, veterans’ halls and other locations. A total of 65 of those saw their first legal video gambling take place on Tuesday.

CBS 2’s Marissa Bailey was with one of the first players to get lucky.

The machines at Crabby’s Pub in Stickney paid out a $40 jackpot to its first winner on Tuesday.

Owner Phyllis Accardo said, when video gambling went live at her bar, she immediately called one of her regulars, Karl Swiecionis.

“I called him at home, and said ‘My machines are on,’” she said.

“She says, ‘Karl, they’re on.’ I says, ‘Oh, no kidding?’”

Within 20 minutes, Swiecionis was sitting in front of one of the gambling machines, and he didn’t plan to leave anytime soon after that.

“I tell ya, I’m going to spend four or five [hours] here today,” he said.

For most of the 65 locations to turn on their video gambling machines on Tuesday, going live happened in an instant.

“They were off one minute and on the next,” said Jeff Glover, manager of Chino’s Pizzeria in Justice.

Glover said he didn’t believe the machines were finally working, so “I threw in $12. …I didn’t win.”

But there was a slight delay in turning on the machines at Davern’s Tavern in Justice.

Debbie Gordon said she had to wait about an hour and a half for the bar to get its machines turned on.

“We wanted to be the first ones to try these out this morning,” she said.

Like most new launches, there were some hiccups, and the Gordons left before trying their luck.

“They’re doing one at a time. You know, there’s nothing we can do,” said Jim Ruzicka, vice president of sales for Universal Gaming. “Everybody just be patient. It’s been three years, what’s another couple of hours?”

It cost about $80,000 to put five video gambling machines in just one location.

Illinois lawmakers and Gov. Pat Quinn approved video gambling in 2009, to help fund a $31 billion construction program to fix schools, roads and other transportation projects.

But it took until Tuesday for the machines to get turned on, while the Gaming Board reviewed license applications, set up a central computer system to monitor the machines, and took other steps to oversee the industry.

The state’s video gambling law allows the machines to be installed at bars, restaurants, truck stops, fraternal organizations and other establishments that hold a liquor license. A licensed location may have up to five machines.

There were about 2,200 applications still pending as of Tuesday.

In 2009, officials estimated video gambling would raise about $375 million in annual revenue for the state.

Before video gambling was legalized in Illinois, many businesses had video gaming machines that did not pay out any money. Other businesses paid out illegal winnings under the table, and state officials hope legalizing the industry will help eliminate that practice.

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