Some keen, others not so, on Connecticut Keno proposal
There is no small amount of disagreement over whether Connecticut should allow the game of chance Keno to be offered by the Connecticut Lottery Corporation in restaurants, bars, and convenience stores. There were dozens of witnesses addressing the issue (H.B. 7054) at a recent hearing of the legislature’s Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee.
Here are excerpts from what a long list of witnesses provided in written form. Access to all the written testimony at the hearing — a large volume — is available here.
President, Waterbury Teachers Association
I am here today to testify on H.B. No. 7054 and the need for the state to generate sufficient revenue to fund Connecticut’s schools.
Waterbury is not only among the 119 underfunded towns that do not receive their full Education Cost Sharing Grant (ECS), it is the most underfunded town in the state. The State of Connecticut owes Waterbury $54.7 million just this year alone.
In addition to ECS underfunding, the governor’s budget proposes cuts that would significantly impact services to our schoolchildren. Programs such as Priority School Extended Hours and Summer Programs, which are vital to our Waterbury students, stand to suffer with potential cuts of up to 50 percent in student enrollment in these initiatives. Waterbury students are in desperate need of these additional opportunities to reinforce and enrich skills initially learned in the classroom.
I urge committee members to consider progressive and dependable ways to raise funds for local schools. …
Nicholas A. Yanicelli
President, Malta Justice Initiative
Keno, as you know, is a lottery like game offered in some state lotteries and modern casinos and each operation sets its own series of payout choices, sometimes called paytables. For purposes of this discussion we will not focus on the odds of winning the various CT lotteries, but we should address that the “house” edge for Keno can range from 4 percent to well over 35 percent. The typical house edge for non-slot casino games is between 2 percent and 5 percent.
This form of gambling has the potential to prey on the most vulnerable in our society and exacerbate an already bad situation. As you may know, 90 percent of people incarcerated in Connecticut suffer from a mental disorder or an addiction, be it drugs, alcohol or gambling, among the most prevalent… … Keno is a bad bet for Connecticut and in some circles is characterized as a “misery tax “and/or “video crack.”
Problem gambling leads to crime, debt, bankruptcies and broken homes and families. Is it really worth the risk to increase tax revenues in this way?
Maybe we should collectively focus on a campaign to develop a broad-based coalition of interests, primarily small businesses, to grow jobs. Maybe it is time to figure out what Connecticut is doing right and re-energize efforts in those areas with less restrictions and business regulations conducive to growth while we discard the non-working elements.
It costs Connecticut $51,000 per year for each prison bed which puts us in the top 3 states where it costs more to imprison a felon than it does for a college education. Why are we focusing on a lottery like game to raise revenues at the risk of incarcerating more of our vulnerable citizens?
Senior Regional Manager, Cumberland Farms, Inc.
This bill is important for my business for the following reasons:
Adding Keno will attract additional customers to my stores.
Keno will also create an additional option for our lottery customers. Our lottery customers play a wide variety of games.
Being able to utilize the quick printout of a Keno ticket from the terminal will be good for the convenience store customer. Our average customer is only in our stores for about a minute.
Ultimately, adding Keno will create additional sales and commissions for both the retailer and the Connecticut lottery.
Lottery income for Cumberland Farms in Connecticut covers approximately 10,000 hours of labor for our stores each month. This number represents 250 full time positions for the residents of Connecticut.
Our locations in Rhode Island and Massachusetts average approximately 4.5 percent of their total online ticket sales in Keno.
State Sen. Tony Hwang and former U.S. Rep. Robert Steele
A similar legislative proposal last year to legalize keno projected that it could generate up to $28 million a year in revenue. But those revenues would not even begin to be worth the economic, social, and public health costs.
To begin with, every cent of keno revenue would come from the gambling losses of keno players, providing the state with no net economic gain. Moreover, the latest research shows that today’s electronic and machine gambling technology is increasingly addictive, creating a host of problems, including debt, bankruptcy, broken families, and crime.
A study of keno in New York State found that it led to a sharp increase in minority betting, while it has been well-documented that legalized gambling is a regressive tax that hits low-wage earners, minorities, and retirees the hardest.
The most recent Quinnipiac University poll on keno found that 59 percent of Connecticut residents opposed the legalization of keno. Connecticut’s media has overwhelming opposed its legalization over the past two years.
More gambling is not an answer to Connecticut’s economic problems. Instead of encouraging our citizens to gamble away their savings, we need to attract productive, living-wage jobs, promote stable revenue streams and end the runaway spending that’s put the state so deeply in debt.
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