While legislators and a representative of the problem gambling group argue that legalizing keno would be harmful to children, the chairman of the Connecticut Lottery Corporation Board of Trustees, one state representative and a doctor who is an expert in youth gambling argue otherwise.
The discussion of legalizing keno comes after the legislature approved keno at the end of the last legislative session and a bill was just recently raised that would prohibit the Connecticut Lottery from permitting the new game in convenience stores, restaurants, and bars.
Senator Art Linares, from the 23rd District and ranking member on the Committee on Children, stated in written testimony that he was “particularly sensitive to how keno could impact children in our state.” With keno proposed for family restaurants, Linares said that “children would be exposed to gambling early, and often.”
State Representative Tony Hwang, 134th district, claimed at the Mar. 4 public hearing that “you have a multi-color drawing ball that is visually cued to capture the attention of vendors in your restaurant, it’s not a static experience…all of a sudden you have young children in the middle of a meal being in tranced by a colorful screen moving back and forth.”
In written testimony, Mary Drexler from the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling wrote against restaurant keno stating, “not only would minors closely watch their parents gamble, but in may cases parents would invite their children to participate, as has been observed in other states in which keno is widespread in restaurants. It may seem perfectly normal for many parents to allow their children to participate in playing keno at restaurants.”
However, Barbara Porto, Vice President of Operations and Administration, for the Connecticut Lottery, spoke with Dr. Jeffrey Derevensky regarding the impact of keno on minors.
He is a well-respected, well-known, and widely published expert in the field of youth gambling. He serves as co-director of the International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High Risk Behaviors as well as Professor of Applied/Child Psychology and Professor of Psychiatry, at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.
“In Dr. Derevensky’s opinion, minors aren’t typically interested in the game of keno, as much as they aren’t typically interested in other matrix-style games. He is not aware of any research indicating that adolescent children are attracted to, or develop problems as a result of playing keno. Further, he has not treated nor been exposed to an adolescent keno problem gambler. Adolescent children who present for treatment as problem gamblers do not indicate keno as their game of choice. According to Dr. Derevensky, these children are much more sensitive to video lottery terminals (VLTs) or scratch games. Interestingly, too, even when keno is displayed as one of the game options on the VLT, he said that young people do not select keno. They will, instead, choose blackjack and/or poker. When asked whether the selling location (such as restaurants, diners, cafes) might encourage minors to play keno, Dr. Derevensky opined that it would not. When asked whether the graphics on the monitors would attract minors to play keno, Dr. Derevensky again opined that they would not. The only caveat to our discussion came when we talked about possible keno prizes. Dr. Derevensky stated that large cash prizes would not attract adolescents to play keno, in much the same way that large cash prizes don’t attract adolescents to play Powerball or Mega Millions. Certain non-cash prizes may attract minors, but the Lottery has no intention of designing a keno game with such prizes.”
Frank Farricker, chairman of the Connecticut Lottery Corporation’s Board of Directors, also stated that keno is a lottery game and is not a video game that would entice children.
Rep. Daniel Rovero, 51st district, told committee members that he never saw children mesmerized by keno in neighboring states.