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Sharkey Adds Name To Growing List of Lawmakers Who Want To Repeal Keno

by Christine Stuart | Feb 19, 2014 12:20pm
(10) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Gaming, State Budget, Taxes, State Capitol

CTNJ file photo

House Speaker Brendan Sharkey

(Updated 3:45 p.m.) House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, is just the latest legislator to add his name to a list in favor of repealing keno.

Sharkey announced his opposition to keno at the annual conference of the Connecticut Council of Small Towns in Cromwell on Wednesday. Sharkey told the group of local officials that keno revenue is no longer needed to sustain a balanced state budget, and since the electronic lottery-type game has yet to be implemented, repeal now is appropriate.

“Keno was a late addition to the budget last year as a way to help fill a budget hole, but now the revenue is not needed so I don’t see a reason to go forward with it, particularly when it hasn’t even started,” Sharkey said. “There was never really a groundswell of support for keno, it was simply a revenue option that was put on the table during budget negotiations at the time and was acceptable to the governor.”

House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero and Senate Minority Leader John McKinney have both called for repeal and Sen. Andrea Stillman, a Democrat from Waterford, introduced a bill earlier this month seeking to repeal the game, which is often referred to as the “crack cocaine” of gambling.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said last week that keno wasn’t his idea and he didn’t have an opinion on whether it should be repealed.

“The legislature’s got a job to do,” Malloy said. “This was not done by me.”

Keno was brought to the state budget negotiation table after lawmakers killed Malloy’s plans to sell consumers’ electric bills to the highest bidder.

When it comes to keno, Malloy said his administration would do whatever it’s asked to do by the legislature.

“I will point out that keno is ubiquitous and is frequently run by lottery corporations in other states, but that’s a political decision,” Malloy said. “But I’m not a person who proposed keno.”

He said there seems to be agreement between the state and the tribes regarding revenue-sharing, but it still has to be formalized by at least one of the tribes.

Sen. President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, has said expanding gambling was not “ideal,” but it was necessary in order to balance the budget last year. Asked earlier this month if it would be something he would look to get rid of, Williams said the state needs a “reliable revenue stream.”

But on Wednesday, Williams said, “because of Connecticut’s improving fiscal outlook, we can now begin to have a conversation about budget options.”

“I think that it’s well known that I’ve have never been a supporter of Keno and I share many of the concerns first raised by Senator Stillman and now Speaker Sharkey,” Williams said. “I look forward to discussing this, as the session progresses, with the members of my caucus.”

McKinney applauded Sharkey’s pronouncement Wednesday.

“It is not surprising that the governor and speaker had a change of heart shortly after a political poll found that the vast majority of Connecticut residents oppose their plan,” McKinney said. “But, regardless of their motivation, it is in Connecticut’s best interest to stop keno.”

A Quinnipiac University poll in June found that 59 percent of voters oppose keno.

Lawmakers left it up to the Connecticut Lottery Corporation to establish the game. It’s unclear how much the Connecticut Lottery Corporation has spent on that effort. In September, it had planned to spend $5.4 million on game development.

Under the legislation, the Office of Policy and Management was in charge of negotiating with the two Indian tribes. As of Wednesday, it had a draft agreement awaiting the approval of the two tribes, which have a say over gambling in the state. Each tribe would each get a 12.5 percent cut of keno revenue, according to the state budget passed last June.

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

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(10) Comments

posted by: art vandelay | February 19, 2014  12:46pm

art vandelay

Keno was an end around political ploy by the Democrats to balance last years budget.
The last thing they were going to do was cut spending or raise taxes to do it.  Now that we have a “Phantom Surplus”, Keno can go until the next deficit.

posted by: Greg | February 19, 2014  4:26pm

Could any of the legislative leadership also share how keno mysteriously ended up in the implementer bill? That would be great…

posted by: KevinW | February 19, 2014  4:32pm

Now that keno has proven to be very unpopular with State residents and is no longer necessary to balance the budget, it is interesting that no one in the legislature or the Governor’s office has any idea how it got into the budget in the first place. Not only does no one claim ownership but they have all really been against it from the start. It must be nice to work in a profession where you never have to take responsibiity for anything if it doesn’t work out the way you want.

posted by: Matt W. | February 19, 2014  4:41pm

Matt W.

Malloy is hilarious! “Keno? What’s Keno?  I’m so far away from Keno, I can’t even spell it”.  HAHA! Can he say that it wasn’t his idea one more time?

posted by: Fisherman | February 19, 2014  7:41pm

Because you asked, KevinW…

HB-6704: AN ACT CONCERNING EXPENDITURES AND REVENUE FOR THE BIENNIUM ENDING JUNE 30, 2015 was introduced by:

REP. J. BRENDAN SHARKEY, 88th
and
SEN. DONALD E. WILLLIAMS, 29th Dist.

Co-sponsors of HB-6704
Rep. Ernest Hewett, 39th Dist.
Rep. Ezequiel Santiago, 130th Dist.
Rep. Minnie Gonzalez, 3rd Dist.
Sen. Steve Cassano, 4th Dist.
Sen. Toni Nathaniel Harp, 10th Dist

AND NOW SHARKEY AND WILLAMS THINK IT A “BAD IDEA”?

posted by: ocoandasoc | February 19, 2014  8:21pm

Pass it one day. Repeal it the next. More proof that CT legislators have no idea of what their doing and what’s in the legislation they are rubber stamping.

posted by: Noteworthy | February 20, 2014  7:57am

Late intelligence is better than no intelligence. What is equally troubling is the secret dealings from the governor to the signors that manufactured this terrible idea - predictably including then senator, now mayor Toni Harp.

posted by: Chien DeBerger | February 20, 2014  8:20am

Can I suggest that since the democrats are having a foray into a moment of sanity, why not include the unconstitutional P.A. 13-3 An Act Concerning Gun Violence and Children’s Safety too? That can’t be this sane for long..

posted by: robn | February 21, 2014  12:59pm

Why are Dems worried? Toni Harp co-sponsored this bill and thousands upon thousands of poor people who would be most harmed by this bill still came out in droves to vote for her.
Just sayin.

posted by: EDreformCT | February 23, 2014  4:49pm

Sharkey FOCUS! keno is a nonissue compared to education. Malloy’s holding and education ‘forum’ where only a short list of his crony friends are aloud to speak. Stand with the host of other bipartisan legislators who are calling for an OPEN hearing on Common Core and its marriage to teacher evaluations!