CT closer to offering keno

A typical keno video display in a bar.

A typical keno video display in a bar.

The state of Connecticut moved closer this week toward offering keno gaming at restaurants, bars and convenience stores later this fiscal year.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration announced Tuesday afternoon it had reached an agreement with the two Indian tribes that run casinos in southeastern Connecticut to share 25 percent of the keno proceeds. That was the maximum level authorized by the legislature, and several legislators had said they expected the sharing agreement would match that level.

The compact that grants the state a share of the video slot revenues from Foxwoods Resorts Casino and from the Mohegan Sun casino also grants the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes exclusive rights to offer casino games in the state. And keno – a drawing game with some similarity to Bingo that relies on electronically generated numbers – is considered a casino game under that compact.

Each tribe would receive 12.5 percent of the proceeds under the new agreement announced this week.

Using estimates from the nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis, the legislature assumed last June when it adopted the current, two-year state budget, that keno would add $30 million to the state’s coffers starting next fiscal year.

“These agreements are the result of productive and cooperative negotiations between the state and the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes and represent the next step forward in bringing keno to the state,” Benjamin Barnes, Malloy’s budget chief, said.

Chuck Bunnell, the Mohegan tribe’s chief of staff, called the new agreement “the perfect example” of an “open and productive dialogue between our two governments.

“We are pleased to work with the state on issues of mutual interest that ultimately will continue to allow Connecticut and the tribal nations’ economies to prosper,” added William L. Satti, director of legislative affairs for the Mashantucket Pequot tribe.

The tribes are hoping to get final legislative approval next year to open between one and three small casinos outside of their tribal nations. The first facility planned would be in north-central Connecticut and would be to mitigate competition from a new casino under development in Springfield, Mass.

The lottery corporation was the chief advocate for the launch of keno, arguing it is essential for the lottery’s ability to compete for limited gambling dollars.

Anne Noble, president of the lottery corporation, told legislators last spring that keno revenues have the potential to grow significantly over the next few years as the game attracts more players at thousands of sites.

In Massachusetts — the home of the most successful lottery in the nation in terms of per capita sales — the $790 million wagered on keno two years ago was 17 percent of the lottery’s gross revenues of $4.7 billion.

Lottery officials have said offering keno is crucial to compete with diverse gambling options in neighboring states.

Noble also said that preliminary numbers show interest in many lottery ticket games has peaked. The $310 million the lottery corporation transferred into the state’s coffers last fiscal year was down slightly from the $319 million contributed in 2013-14.

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