Monday, June 1, 2009

Tribes Silent On Governor's Statewide Proposal On Electronic Keno Gambling

By Ken Davison
Feather News

Last week Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell proposed a budget that includes future revenues derived from introducing an electronic gambling game known as Keno into bars and restaurants in the state.

Would the state's gambling compacts (agreements) with the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes be violated by such a move? So far, the tribes have been silent on this point.

Members of the state's Gaming Policy Board, which oversees gambling in the state as part of the state's Division of Special Revenues, believe that Keno is currently allowed under existing laws and state attorney general Richard Blumenthal is expected to offer his opinion this week.

Gov. Rell's budget shows that Keno would generate $20 million for the state in its first year and $60 million every year thereafter. Once Keno is in place, the state could borrow money in the bond market backed by the future state revenues collected on the game.

The game is played by choosing a set of numbers between 1 and 80 on a video touch screen and the player can win money depending on how many of the player's numbers match those selected by the computer. Keno originated in China over 3,000 years ago and was brought to the United States in the late 1800's by Chinese immigrants. The game was later integrated into games offered by Nevada casinos in the 1930's. Both Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods offer Keno.

"According to a lottery research publication, 2004 Keno sales in Massachusetts totaled about $775 million; $88 million in Rhode Island; and $532 million in New York," the New Haven Register reported in an April article.

Paul Young, executive director of Connecticut's Division of Special Revenues, believes the state can offer Keno without violating the compacts with the Indian tribes because Keno is "a type of lottery game."