House Bill 5387 “An Act Concerning Keno” was discussed at a public hearing held by the Public Safety and Security Committee March 4.
The bill would prevent the rollout of keno by the Connecticut Lottery Corporation.
The controversy is over a simple game of chance where customers pay to pick numbers between 1 and 80 on a television screen.
Letters to the Committee
According to the Connecticut General Assembly website , twelve letters were received in favor of keno than those against, which were five.
Robert Froelick, State Commander of the VFW, believes that “keno will help sales and increase business in the VFW posts, restaurants, and retail establishments” and he believes that “by offering keno organizations such as ours will be able to attract more members not only from Connecticut, but from bordering states.”
He goes on to state “keno has proven to be very successful in generating revenue for the states and the keno retailers, as well as increasing job opportunities as a result of the increased traffic created in keno establishments.”
Charles Tilson, owner of 1st and 10 Sports Bar and Grill in New Milford, wrote “as a retail location in a town bordering New York, I have seen firsthand the loss of customers to establishments with keno over the border. I believe by offering keno, I will be able to attract new customers and retain customers that currently leave to play in neighboring states.”
According to Carl Caniares of C&A Market in West Haven, “stores have made future plans based on the understanding that keno was only a matter of time. Now it appears the legislature and the governor are listening to the naysayers. There is no consistency in the legislature. You pass bills and then you look to repeal the same bills. Businesses need certainty in order to properly plan.”
Other business owners who wrote in favor of keno included Sami Ami of Quik Pik in Meriden, Tony Uliano of Arch 2 Sports Bar and Grill in Rocky Hill, Mary Grady of Grady Tavern in Manchester, and Tim Howly of Shea’s American Bar and Grill in Manchester.
Those writing against keno included Adam Osmond, Robert Steele, Executive Director of CT Council on Problem Gambling Mary Drexler, State Senator Michael McLachlan and State Senator Art Linares.
Status of Keno
The Connecticut Post stated that “keno is dead for the present” even though keno was voted into law at end of the last legislative session and wouldn’t be dead until a bill passes that stops its implementation.
Frank Farricker, chairman of the Connecticut Lottery Corporation’s Board of Directors, told committee members that the agency has spent $50,000 to prepare for the game.
Many restaurants, convenience stores, and taverns expressed excitement about keno.
Representative Stephen Dargan, Chair of the Public Safety and Security Committee, believes there would be between 700 to 1,000 businesses interested in applying for keno licenses.
Farricker believes the state would make between $27 million and $44 million in the first year and that businesses offering the game would get 5 percent.
Last year’s law allow the Mashantucket Pequot, owners of Foxwoods, and the Mohegan Tribe, owners of Mohegan Sun, to receive 12.5% of keno gross revenues.
While some were critical of gambling at the public hearing, Dargan said that without gaming there would have been a $596 million revenue shortfall last year. $300 million came from the Connecticut Lottery while the other $297 million came from the Mashantucket Pequot and the Mohegan Tribe, whom contribute 25% of their slot revenues to the state as the result of their gaming compact.
The same legislators who voted for keno took an about face claiming that it’s not necessary due to a projected $500 million budget surplus . However, deficits are projected for future years. These deficits are partly due to decreasing projected amounts of slot revenue from the casinos due to increasing levels of competition in neighboring states. Offering keno throughout Connecticut could help the state be more competitive for gaming dollars.