Support grows for repealing Keno

Hartford — A bill to repeal the expansion of keno received support from several legislators on the Public Safety and Security Committee on Tuesday. General Assembly leadership and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy have also said in recent weeks that they oppose keno or would be willing to reverse the keno authorization that was passed last year.

 

“Voting for keno, as it was buried in the budget, was the most distasteful rat that I have ever voted for,” said state Rep. Steve Mikutel, D-Griswold, on Tuesday. “And I really object to the way that it was handled and the fact that it had no public hearing and no debate.”

 

Legislators said they were opposed especially to permitting keno in family restaurants because of its potential influence on children. The state’s two Indian-run casinos have the right to offer keno, and Foxwoods Resorts Casino does. The tribes would have to sign off on any expansion of keno — a game of chance where players pay to pick numbers from 1 to 80 on a television screen — in the state.

 

Frank Farricker, chairman of the board of directors for the Connecticut Lottery Corp., said many taverns, convenient stores and restaurants were excited about the prospect of having keno and that the lottery corporation was ready to expand if given the green light.

 

Farricker said the corporation estimated $27 million to $44 million in revenue for the state in the first year and that businesses that offered the game would get 5 percent of each dollar spent. The state would have paid the tribes about 12.5 percent of the gross revenues, according to the bill that was passed last year.

 

Mikutel said that the legislature was debating keno because the people of Connecticut had spoken up against it.

 

“I look at keno as an addictive type of gambling; I look at it as being a gateway for higher forms of gambling,” Mikutel said.

 

State Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford, state Sen. Art Linares, R-Westbrook, and state Rep. Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield, were co-sponsors of the repeal bill.

 

“In authorizing keno last year, we made a bad decision — a bad decision, which would expose our kids to gambling,” Linares said. “This year, we have an opportunity to reverse that decision.”

 

j.somers@theday.com

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