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Connecticut Lottery Corp. Makes Its Pitch For Keno

by | Apr 15, 2015 6:09pm () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Ethics, Gaming, Town News, Public Safety, Quasi-Public, Taxes, State Capitol

Christine Stuart photo Proponents told members of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee on Wednesday that bringing keno to Connecticut is essential to keeping the state’s lottery competitive with other states’, while opponents decried the game as a short-sighted and ill-advised way to generate revenue.

The bill would allow the Connecticut Lottery Corp. to offer keno throughout the state and is projected to generate $5 million in its first year after startup expenses. After that, proponents say keno will generate $20 million in the second year and $30 million in the third year.

“(Keno) will ensure that the lottery will remain a stable and sustained source of revenue for the state, not in the short term but in the long term,” Connecticut Lottery Corp. President and CEO Anne Noble said.

With the waning popularity of Powerball and MegaMillions, the lottery needs to diversify its offerings, Noble said.

Keno is offered in neighboring states including Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island, and has the potential to become more popular than Powerball, she said.

“Unfortunately, keno has been repeatedly mischaracterized to all of you as electronic gambling,” she told committee members. “It is not. It is not a slot machine. For those that want to play the lottery and play keno, it’s another form of entertainment while dining. For those who don’t want to play, it will often go unnoticed.”

Retailers who already sell other Connecticut Lottery games are eager to add keno, she said. If the bill is passed, the game could be played in bars, restaurants, and convenience stores.

“It’s a great way to bring more lottery business to small-business owners throughout Connecticut,” testified Chintan Patel, owner and operator of Dada Deli in Waterbury. “(Keno) should help small-business owners, not only casinos.”

Currently, keno is permitted only at the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino through a compact the casino owners entered with the state. The proposed legislation is contingent upon the state reaching agreements with the Mohegan Tribe and Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, and would give a cut of the lottery’s keno proceeds to each tribe.

The tribes have “deep concerns” about the specific language of the new legislation, said Charles Bunnell, chief of staff of external affairs for the Mohegan Tribe.

“Specifically, the definition of keno has changed to something too loosely defined to be acceptable,” Bunnell testified.

The tribe is eager to work with lawmakers but wants to do it “in a way that does not impact the revenue-sharing agreement that has been in place with the state for over 20 years,” Bunnell testified.

Keno has been proposed in Connecticut previously in 2010 and 2013. It was adopted in 2013 to close a budget gap, but quickly repealed in 2014 before it could be established.

“The public, through the General Assembly, has spoken that this is not what they want,” Sen. Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield, said while testifying against the bill. “We as a state should not be in the business of condoning gambling as a revenue source.”

Hwang said bringing keno into restaurants could lead to higher rates of gambling addiction in the state and expose children to gambling at a young age.

“A parent, in an innocent way, could expose their children to the idea that gambling is acceptable in a formal dining experience,” he said. “We are looking at creating a generation of people who would be addicted to gambling.”

Gambling addiction has “shattered” people’s lives, Hwang said, and that cost must be weighed against potential revenue the game would bring the state.

“This kind of expansion is an ill-advised foray in seeking a short-term solution in revenue,” he said, adding that with too much gaming expansion Connecticut will begin to resemble Atlantic City.

The bill is not just about generating revenue for the state, but also about ensuring the lottery remains competitive, said Rep. Jeffrey Berger, D-Waterbury, co-chairman of the Finance committee.

“It’s unfair to the Connecticut Lottery to say that, if we institute keno, then Connecticut’s going to be like Atlantic City,” Berger, who supports the legislation, said. “That’s a whole different (business) model.”

Berger and Noble both noted that the lottery financially supports gambling cessation programs for those with an addiction.

“It’s important for the state of Connecticut to support the Connecticut Lottery,” Berger said. “They need to be competitive. If we enact keno, that’s not taking care of our revenue problem, but what it will do is support the Connecticut Lottery in its business model.”

Berger refuted Hwang’s claim that having keno in restaurants is anti-family, saying that most who opt not to play the game would not notice its presence.

Rep. Russell Morin, D-Wethersfield, also said he supports the legislation.

Other committee members, however, were more hesitant about the bill.

Rep. Roland Lemar, D-New Haven, the committee’s vice chair, said he is “very reluctant to support (keno) at this point.”

Studies have shown that keno can be more addictive than lottery scratch tickets, Lemar said, and he wants more assurances that the lottery will work to combat problem gambling.

Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, said he worries about turning to the lottery to solve revenue problems. “It does concern me, the road we’re going down,” he said.

If the bill were to pass, Noble said much of the needed infrastructure is already in place from when it previously seemed like keno would be legalized.

Retailers would be trained in how to offer keno “responsibly” and how to connect problem gamblers with resources that can help them, she said. The lottery also would launch at least two widespread awareness campaigns addressing gambling addiction, she added.

“We recognize at the Connecticut Lottery that, even if it’s just a small portion of the population that has a problem gambling, we have an obligation to act,” she said. “We do that.”

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(9) Archived Comments

posted by: SocialButterfly | April 15, 2015  7:42pm

In today’s bad economic times, is it feasible to create more new gamblers that can gamble away their family grocery money on a losing game effort in keno?
Gov. Dannel Malloy and his legislative puppets have already have gambled away our money by way of unrestricted spending,  Let’s not do the same with consumers by creating another losing gambling outlet for our already tight-budgeted, over-burdened and over-taxed taxpayers.

posted by: Janster57 | April 15, 2015  7:51pm

Unreal. A proposal that the legislature dropped like a live grenade a few months ago is now the holy grail of “revenue enhancement”. Legalized Meth anyone?

posted by: LE 2015 | April 15, 2015  8:30pm

How can our state be so stupid. We need real jobs not casinos and lottery games. Wake up

posted by: justsayin | April 16, 2015  4:50am

Desperate money grab by elected officials who are incapable of increasing jobs and real revenue. This path of casino and keno puts on the the Atlantic City path. No real backbone and more union jobs. It has worked no where.

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | April 16, 2015  7:55am

Emailed testimony I sent in: “I strongly urge that that the legislature NOT pass this bill. Although I recognize we have severe budget crisis in our state, it is reckless and irresponsible to try and fund this gap with Keno.

Why? I’ll quote an op-ed from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette when a similar bill measure was proposed in Pennsylvania:

“We mustn’t be timid about describing this as what it is: a tremendous and highly-regressive tax largely on the underprivileged and the elderly. It is funding government programs on the backs of precisely those whom those programs are supposed to benefit. It is an overwhelmingly cynical attempt to tap into the hope—necessarily more common among the lower classes, the unemployed and those on fixed incomes—that Lady Luck will deliver a payday in order to make a buck for the Harrisburg bureaucracy.”

Substitute Hartford for Harrisburg and the same applies today. Governor Malloy’s budget is already decimating the support system for the people who need them most - and this bill will just cause more problems while the rest of the budget takes away the support structures to deal with them when they inevitably arise. It is not only poor public policy, it is madness”.

posted by: SocialButterfly | April 16, 2015  10:23am

The revenue from keno money would be quickly squandered away “by the Gov. Malloy free spending machine” and we will be back to “square-one” as a national fiscal failure leader in financial disaster policies. Keno is no solution to our state leadership of deficit spending and we should put it to rest “as unaddressed.”

posted by: oliviahuxtable | April 16, 2015  11:18am

Please. Are you folks who oppose Keno up at the Capitol,  lobbying for an end to ALL legalized gambling in our state? I am not poor or elderly….I play the lottery, spend reasonable money at the casinos,  and would play a fun game of Keno while dining out, as I do in Massachusetts.  Stop the hysterics. Massachusetts has a successful Keno game, so should Connecticut.

posted by: dano860 | April 16, 2015  3:49pm

SDL, I remember when Harrisburg filed for bankruptcy. They are the capital of Pa. too. I’m not against responsible gambling but saying that is like believing that the Ct Legislature knows how to save money.
I have gone to the dome to submit verbal and written testimony before committee meetings in the past but never electronically. I have had the fifty copies, waited ten hours and left feeling as though that was a waste of time.
I don’t agree with the premise of thinking gaming is going to advance Ct., economically or quality of life. We need more corporations to support the small business community. The one where good jobs thrive out of.

posted by: justsayin | April 16, 2015  7:26pm

Oliviahuxtable you are missing the point. It’s not the game it’s the way they use it to try and plug a hole they created and can not fill with good policy and action. The game will hurt more that help.

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