A bill that would squash keno before it’s even started was unanimously approved by 24 members of the Connecticut Public Safety and Security Committee on a 24-0 vote. The committee filed a “Joint Favorable” report allowing the bill to be forwarded to the Legislative Commissioners’ Office for “constitutionality and consistency with other law”. It’s vote out of committee gives it a real chance to actually become law.
The game, which would be run by the Connecticut Lottery and was expected to bring between $27 million and $44 million a year, was advocated by many small businesses who would make 5% of every dollar spent.
During the Mar. 4 public hearing, several legislators grilled Frank Farricker, the chairperson of the Connecticut Lottery Corporation’s Board of Directors implying that allowing keno in restaurants would create more problem gamblers and would entice impressionable children.
In fact, State Senator Michael McLachlan called keno the “misery tax” and “video crack” and that “legislation was apparently preceded by a secret deal to share the profits with Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.”
However, the legislation passed last year was nothing but secret and included a provision to share 12.5% of net profits to the casinos.
That legislation, according to Farricker , “requires the Lottery to raise by $400,000 its contributions to DHMAS’s Chronic Gambler’s Rehabilitation Fund, for a total contribution of $2.3 million each year.”
The legislation would help Connecticut with its projected deficits in the coming years.
Connecticut would not be alone in offering keno, 15 other states allow the game including our border states of New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
In fact, Farricker said “the sale of keno will substantially increase lottery revenue, especially over time. Offering keno not only will increase the Lottery’s return to the state over time, but it will also keep our retailers on par with our border states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York in an increasingly and evolving Northeastern gaming market.”
In truth, gaming is helping keep the State of Connecticut afloat as the Connecticut Lottery has contributed over $8 billion to the General Fund, off-track betting (OTB) has brought in $369 million, while slot revenues from Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun contributed over $6 billion.
With increased gaming competition coming through the creation of three regional casinos and one slots parlor in neighboring Massachusetts, slot revenue from Connecticut’s casinos is expected to keep going down. Together, they contributed $411 million in 2008 but the soft economy and competition from new casinos in New York and tables games in Rhode Island have lead to a steady downfall.
While there has been talk of introducing slot machines at the state’s three OTB sites in New Haven, Bridgeport, and Windsor Locks, it would require the reopening of the compact which requires the Connecticut casinos to give 25% of slot revenue to the state, a prospect that the casinos would not be “excited about doing”.
While Quinnipiac University shows that residents are opposed to keno gambling, I wonder if Connecticut taxpayers would be more excited about paying more taxes to make up for the shortfall that is expected to impact our state in future years? My bet is they would take expanded gaming any day of the week.