Keno legalization was a back room deal

The plan to legalize keno across the state was secretly on the General Assembly's radar through much of this legislative session.

Lawmakers whispered among themselves about it. The two gambling tribes knew about it. Certainly the governor, who would never miss an opportunity to appease the tribes, was in the loop.

Only the public was kept in the dark, never told that an expansion of gambling in the state was in the works.

The fact that the state has been secretly negotiating a keno deal with the tribes, cutting them in for a generous 12.5 percent take of the winnings, was obvious from the reactions from both tribes to the keno news, which took most others completely by surprise.

Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Chairman Rodney Butler compared the new keno pact to the existing gaming compact with the tribe.

"Because of this successful partnership with the State and the collaborative relationship with Governor Malloy's administration, we felt it was in the best interest of all to pursue a similar agreement with Keno," he said.

So there you have it. The governor negotiated a keno deal with the tribes but never told the public he was planning to expand gambling and cut the tribes in.

Chuck Bunnell, the Mohegan chief of staff, also indicated tribal officials all had a chance to digest the keno deal long before the public ever heard of it.

Bunnell said the tribe is "comfortable" with the 12.5 percent, soon after the number was made public for the first time. There is no way that the tribal government could have convened and given its assent to the deal in such short order.

No wonder Mary Drexler, executive director of the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling, said her organization was thrown under the bus by the secret deal. They were.

All of the people of Connecticut were thrown under the bus when the Democrats who control state government unilaterally decided to expand gambling in the state without even a suggestion it was being considered.

Not one single public notice or hearing was given.

This is another example of shameful tactics of the government of Gov. Malloy and his legislative henchmen. These are the same people who are determined to undermine freedom of information laws and other watchdog protections for state government.

I am not sure keno is a bad idea for the state. But since the pros and cons were never considered in public, it is hard to know.

It is also clear from polling that it has long been unpopular in the state. Maybe that's why everyone in Hartford decided to ram it down the public's throat without asking. Only their friends in tribal government got a heads up.

We also have no way of knowing how the state of Connecticut arrived at the decision to pay the tribal governments a 12.5 percent tax on its new keno business.

We do know that the tribes believe state-run keno could violate the gambling exclusivity provisions of its compact with the state. But the state, until now, has contended that it wouldn't.

The governor and his Democratic henchmen in the General Assembly have now proven they can make secret gambling deals with the tribes and slip them into the budget at the 11th hour of a legislative session.

But it may not be so easy to keep citizens from voting them and their underhanded politics out of office.

This is the opinion of David Collins

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