If you’re thinking of trotting on down to your friendly adult beverage hall to gamble legally on government-sponsored video poker machines, I think you’ll have to wait a couple of years.

If you’re thinking of trotting on down to your friendly adult beverage hall to gamble legally on government-sponsored video poker machines, I think you’ll have to wait a couple of years.

Meanwhile, the state’s 21,000 “for amusement only” video machines will have to do. And all the “imaginary” winnings stay right here in our hometown!

Yes, folks, our awesome General Assembly legalized video poker in May when lawmakers passed a capital projects bill funded by a combination of increased driver’s license and registration fees; taxes on candy, cosmetics and soda pop; and income from video gambling in Illinois’ 15,000 bars, clubs and licensed truck stops.

Problem is, our legislators and Gov. Pat Quinn didn’t allocate any money to the state Gaming Board to put this labyrinthian video poker system into place.

“They haven’t given us the money or resources to move anything forward on this issue. We were bombarded from phone calls from people wanting to get licenses, applications, and we don’t know when this is going to start,” said Gene O’Shea, Gaming Board spokesman, when we talked.

“We are regulating nine casinos, we’re busy getting a 10th up and running. In one state, their video poker operation has seven or eight lawyers. Our Gaming Board has a total of four lawyers,” O’Shea said.

Illinois may need to hire up to 75 people to get the new system up and operating. Plus, the law is subject to legal interpretation.

“We have to have a system that can communicate with all the machines, and the better systems operate in real time, so they’re monitored around the clock as they are being used,” O’Shea said.

The Gaming Board is moving ahead with requests for proposals from companies that can implement a statewide centralized system that can link to all video gambling terminals.

Here are a few of the logistical problems the Gaming Board faces as it tries to comply with the Legislature’s action:

Unlike casinos, which can’t open unless state agents are present, there are 15,000 bars, fraternal clubs, veterans clubs and licensed truck stops that could have up to five machines each. State agents can’t be in more than a few bars during a day.

How will the state know who’s playing, the age of the players, when the machines are running and whether everything’s on the up-and-up? There’s no easy answer to that now.

Also, there’s a slew of people who must buy expensive (up to $10,000) yearly licenses, from video game manufacturers, to distributors, to operators, to technicians to terminal handlers. The state will have to find a way to monitor machines 24 hours a day.

At the Gaming Board’s Aug. 25 meeting, Chairman Aaron Jaffe recited the various complications of complying with the new law and concluded, “We will do video poker in the same fashion as we regulate the casinos. We will do this at our own pace when we are funded and have proper staff to complete the task.”

Note: The state’s “legal” gambling terminals will NOT be the same as the amusement devices now in bars. Those are licensed by the Department of Revenue at $30 each.

“We expect most establishments that have amusement-only devices will switch over to gaming machines, because they make more money,” said Sue Hofer, spokeswoman for the Revenue Department. “Once the new program is up and running, we’ll see if there are any of the amusement-only machines left to license.”

Rockford Register Star Senior Editor Chuck Sweeny can be reached at (815) 987-1366 or csweeny@rrstar.com.