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Lawmakers Question Keno As Revenues Soar

by Christine Stuart | Feb 4, 2014 6:30am
(6) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Election 2014, Gaming, State Budget

CTNJ file photo Keno, the bingo-like game of chance, was adopted by the General Assembly last June as a new revenue stream. At the time, many lawmakers were not happy about expanding gambling in the state.

However, they bit their lips in order to find the revenue they thought they needed to balance the budget.

Almost nine months later, state Comptroller Kevin Lembo certified a $506.1 million surplus based mostly on improved revenues. Last week, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy proposed a plan to spend the surplus.

Meanwhile, some lawmakers would like to see the state Lottery Corporation scrap its Keno plans since it’s estimated the game will only bring in half of what was initially estimated.

The two-year budget estimated that the state would raise about $31 million by the end of fiscal year 2015, but the Office of Policy and Management said Monday those estimates have dropped to $13.5 million based on the state’s ability to get the game up and running.

The state is close to inking a revenue-sharing deal with the two Indian tribes. Each tribe would each get a 12.5 percent cut of the keno revenues.

Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, who is also running for governor, said Monday that he plans to introduce legislation to repeal keno.

“I see no need for the state to go forward with this,” McKinney said.

He said if anything the drop over the past few years in slot revenue should show lawmakers that “gambling is not a reliable, stable form of revenue or economic development.”

Rep. Stephen Dargan, D-West Haven, who co-chairs the Public Safety Committee that oversees gambling regulations in the state, said that since the game hasn’t started there’s little he’s able to say. He said Connecticut Lottery officials are expected to brief some lawmakers on their progress Tuesday morning.

Lottery officials said they were unable to move forward with the game until the state struck a deal with the two tribes. The Lottery Board approved a resolution in September that allowed it to spend $5.4 million on game development.

Sen. President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said that gambling expansion was not “ideal,” but it was necessary in order to balance the budget last year.

Asked if it would be something he would look to get rid of, Williams said the state needs a “reliable revenue stream.”

House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, who was the first in August to remind the administration that it had included Keno in the budget, said it seemed to him like the administration had no intention of moving forward with keno.

He said the flurry of activity around keno that he prompted when he sent a letter to Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes has since died down.

But the Office of Policy and Management confirmed Monday that it was close to reaching a deal with the two Indian casinos that would permit the state lottery to move forward with its plans to implement keno in about 1,000 locations.

Now that the state has excess revenues, Cafero said he believes the administration is getting pressure from inside its own party to “press the pause button” on keno.

It’s unclear how much of an impact keno could have on the electorate, but it’s widely unpopular with voters according to a 2010 Quinnipiac University poll.

A March 2010 Quinnipiac University poll of Connecticut voters found 70 percent opposed the idea of allowing keno gambling in restaurants, bars, and convenience stores.

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(6) Comments

posted by: Noteworthy | February 4, 2014  9:26am

The addictive game of Keno, which Williams correctly labeled a misery tax before he embraced it as the savior for the state’s $20 billion budget, has always been a bad idea. It wasn’t vetted, wasn’t given public hearings, was hatched in secret and adopted in the dead of night. The public woke up the next morning after being sold out by the dome dwellers for 30 million pieces of silver. Scrap it. We don’t need it; most of us don’t want it. To the extent that it’s “reliable,” it is from the people who can least afford it.

posted by: CTLotterywatchdog | February 4, 2014  8:55pm

Here are the facts: Keno will not bring new money.  The only people who will benefit are CT Lottery management with higher salary and bonuses, and of course the casino who will get a piece of the cut. Keno will destroy more families. Find out more information at www.ctlotterywatchdog.org

posted by: Art Vandelay | February 4, 2014  9:31pm

I do not believe it was ever the Democrats intention to fully implement Keno as a legitimate revenue source.  The only reason why it was passed was to “legally” balance the budget on paper.

posted by: dano860 | February 5, 2014  3:11pm

It is a regressive tax. The ones that hope to get rich on the lottery or Keno are usually the ones that can least afford it. That said they are the ones sitting at the bar drinking the $4 beers too.
How can Don claim it was necessary to pass to balance the budget when there was no there, there? How do they spend invisible money? I know they do it but how? We need to run our budgets that way too.
They have no clue if it will be a boom or bust but they seem to act like they do.

posted by: CTLotterywatchdog | February 5, 2014  7:49pm

Basically the government is gambling on Keno, hopping they will hit BIG, and that is how they balance the budget.

posted by: Art Vandelay | February 5, 2014  11:05pm

To CTLotteryWatchDog,
Read my last comment.  It was NEVER the intent of the State to initiate KENO gambling in Connecticut.  It was just a PLOY to present a balanced budget to avoid any legal ramifications.  It’s NEVER going to happen nor was it ever.  The Democrats control both the House & Senate so they can do whatever they want, plain & simple.