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ICMOA Says Illinois VLT Launch Is Months Away

Posted On: 7/16/2011

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Illinois Coin Machine Operators Association, ICMOA, Sam Westgate, J&J Ventures , Illinois Video Gaming Act, video lottery terminal, VLT, video gaming terminal, VGT, Illinois Gaming Board, Aaron Jaffe, Pat Quinn, amusement business, video lottery computer system

SPRINGFIELD, IL -- Illinois's coin machine industry is "very pleased" with the July 11 state Supreme Court ruling that cleared the way for the state to proceed with its planned operator-run video lottery system, according to the president of the Illinois Coin Machine Operators Association.

As earlier reported by VENDING TIMES, the 7-0 judgment affirmed that the Video Gaming Act was constitutional when bundled into a larger capital-spending bill. ICMOA leader Sam Westgate of J&J Ventures (Carmi) pointed out that the high court's verdict also knocked down plaintiffs' claims that video lottery would violate federal antigambling statutes, among other charges. | SEE RULING

If the Supreme Court had remanded such issues back to the Appellate Court, it could have meant additional delays for implementing program, Westgate said.

The ICMOA president cautioned that it will be several months at best before VLTs can go online at approved locations. The Illinois Gaming Board has not yet appointed a contractor to build the central computer system that will network lottery terminals. Even after the contract is awarded, a public comment period could further delay operations, Westgate said. Installation and testing of the central system is expected to take four to six months.

Following the high court ruling, IGB officials said they are still "studying" bid proposals for the system and cannot forecast when the contract will be awarded.

In addition, the IGB still needs to issue gaming licenses to the manufacturers, distributors, suppliers and terminal operators who have applied for them. Location applications have not yet been made available and the ensuing investigations into that group will be a "daunting task," Westgate reported.

Westgate said the gaming board's circumspect approach to regulation and vetting has been "one of the most positive things for the gaming industry in Illinois" because the agency has won the public's trust over the years. He believes that VLTs will eventually enjoy the same confidence from citizens because of IGB's diligence.

Unfortunately for the industry, IGB chairman Aaron Jaffe remains a critic of the Video Gaming Act. Not for the first time, he blasted the Act on July 12, saying it contained 400 clauses that were designed to favor special interests.

Jaffe also said the IGB will need to double its staff and budget to oversee the regulatory work for the forthcoming VLT market and possibly more casinos. The Illinois Legislature recently passed a gambling expansion bill that authorizes new casino construction; Gov. Pat Quinn has not yet signed that bill.