Rell's keno proposal panned in survey of state voters

Add another voice to the chorus of opposition to Gov. M. Jodi Rell's plan to introduce keno at bars, restaurants and convenience stores: that of the voters.

In poll results released Thursday by Quinnipiac University, 70 percent of the registered voters surveyed say keno, an electronic game of chance proposed as a revenue-producer for the state, should not be allowed. Twenty-seven percent are OK with the proposal, while 3 percent have no opinion.

The survey also found that voters oppose placing tolls on state highways and approve of Sunday sales of alcohol in liquor stores. As for campaigns for statewide office, the poll found that Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz is the leading Democratic candidate for attorney general.

Fifty-nine percent of voters approve of the job Rell is doing, the same percentage that disapproves of the job the legislature is doing, the poll found.

Opposition to keno's introduction was consistent across party lines, with 74 percent of Republicans, 67 percent of Democrats and 72 percent of unaffiliated voters rejecting the governor's proposal. Seventy-three percent of women and 67 percent of men oppose it.

"It's pretty definitive," Marvin Steinberg, executive director of the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling, said of the poll numbers. "It had really concerned me that the governor's office would propose a major new form of gambling without being informed about public opinion. They shouldn't be proposing something that's as problematic as keno without finding out what people think about it.

"It's important that they take it (the poll results) under consideration."

Rell revived the keno proposal at the start of the legislative session, saying it would eventually produce $60 million a year for the cash-strapped state. The proposal, which was the subject of a hearing this month before the legislature's Public Safety and Security Committee, raised the specter of a confrontation between state officials who believe the Connecticut Lottery Corp. could introduce keno on its own, and the state's casino-owning Indian tribes, which believe doing so would violate the terms of their exclusive gaming agreements with the state.

Reacting to the poll results on the keno question, Adam Liegeot, a spokesman for the governor, said, "If the legislature prefers another way to help balance the state budget, Governor Rell would be open to considering it."

Fifty-six percent of poll respondents reject putting tolls on state highways, another revenue-producing plan being considered by the legislature. Forty percent support it.

The voters, who were polled March 9 through 15, support Sunday alcohol sales by 56 to 39 percent but oppose the sale of wine and hard liquor at grocery stores by 52 to 45 percent. Men support Sunday sales by 62 to 33 percent while the margin among women is far narrower - 50 to 46 percent.

A bill that would have authorized Sunday liquor-stores sales recently died in committee.

The poll found that in the primary races for governor, more respondents are "undecided" than are in any particular candidate's corner. Among the 549 registered Democrats surveyed, 28 percent would vote for Ned Lamont, the former nominee for the U.S. Senate, while 18 percent favor Dan Malloy, the former Stamford mayor. Forty-four percent of Democrats are undecided.

Thirty percent of the 387 registered Republicans said they would vote for Tom Foley, the former U.S. ambassador to Ireland who was the only candidate to get more than 4 percent. Fifty percent of Republicans are undecided.

Bysiewicz leads the Democratic field in the attorney general race with 54 percent of the vote, followed by former state Sen. George Jepsen at 10 percent. No other candidate gets more than 2 percent of the vote. Thirty-one percent of Democrats are undecided.

On the Republican side, state Sen. Andrew Roraback gets 13 percent while no other candidate gets more than 9 percent. Sixty-six percent of Republicans are undecided.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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