Video gambling machines could appear in Peoria by August
PEORIA, May 24, 2012 (Journal Star - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Electronic poker and blackjack machines could be installed in local taverns within the next two months, with the games officially operating by Aug. 1.
But at least one businessman in Peoria believes it could be later in August by the time video gambling is operating in the River City. Video gambling was voted in Tuesday by the Peoria City Council.
"I don't know if we'll get them by Aug. 1 or not," said Bill Lanzotti, general manager of Landmark Recreation Center, who wants the allowable five machines installed somewhere between the facility's bowling alley and Bullpen Sports Bar & Grill. "I think, sometime in August, we should be able to get them."
Scott Stewart, with New York-based Scientific Gaming Corp., told the Illinois Gaming Board last week that by Aug. 1, the video gambling system should be ready to go.
"Our main goal is by the first of August, that all establishments we installed in June and July . . . on Aug. 1, (it's) flip the switch and everyone will be brought up for gaming," Stewart said during his May 17 update before the gaming board in Chicago.
Illinois Gaming Board spokesman Gene O'Shea said whether establishments such as Landmark get gambling machines by Aug. 1 depends on a variety of factors, including an application review and background checks.
"(Scientific Gaming) will be doing these as quickly as possible," O'Shea said.
The company is handling the installation and oversight of the state's video gambling machines after being awarded a $66.8 million contract late last year to do so.
Video gambling was legalized in Illinois by the Legislature in 2009 as way to raise an estimated $300 million annually for a massive statewide construction program.
The rollout has hit several snags, but lately there has been a push by municipal governments, such as Peoria, to adopt ordinances supporting the state law.
That has concerned anti-gambling advocates who believe communities like Peoria are voting in favor of video gambling with little input or analysis on the addictive effects it might have on the public.
"It's a real red flag for Peoria," said Anita Bedell, executive director of the Illinois Church Action on Alcohol & Addiction Problems.
She said the city will get very little revenue from the gambling devices. According to the law, the city will get about 5 percent of revenue from the machines, while the state gets 25 percent and the remaining 70 percent is split between machine operators and the businesses that have them.
"It's the terminal operators and establishments that will get the lion's share of the cash while the community will deal with the problems, and there are many," Bedell said.
Additionally, video gambling will not be universally accepted in Illinois because the 2009 law allowed communities and counties to opt out. Very few communities in central Illinois -- Morton is an exception -- have voted to ban video gambling, while a host of cities in the Chicago suburbs have implemented bans.
For Lanzotti, though, the machines mean a chance to offer something different at his multi-purpose entertainment venue.
"It will be another form of entertainment," he said. "We think our facility is perfectly suited for it because we have other forms of entertainment going on."
John Sharp can be reached at 686-3282 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnSharp99.
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