Is the Era of Keno in Connecticut Over?

Feb 19, 2014

There's a good chance you'll never see a sign like this in Connecticut.
Credit Marc Moss / Creative Commons

Keno in Connecticut may be over before it begins.

Less than a year after a Keno bill passed the legislature in the eleventh hour, and was signed into law by Governor Dannel Malloy, legislative leaders are making a push for its repeal, citing an improving economy.

Democratic Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey announced his support for a repeal during remarks to the Connecticut Council of Small Towns.

"There was never really a ground swell of support for Keno, it was simply a revenue option that was put on the table during budget negotiations at the time and was acceptable to the Governor," said Sharkey according a statement released by his office.

The game -- typically found in supermarkets, gas stations, convenience stores, bars and restaurants in neighboring states -- was authorized by Connecticut's General Assembly in June 2013 as part of a deal to balance the budget.

Governor Dannel Malloy recently said he would sign a bill to repeal the legislation if it passes the General Assembly. Repeal legislation has been introduced by Sen. Andrea Stillman of Waterford.

The legalization of Keno has been roundly criticized since the legislation passed. In June, David Collins wrote for The Day of New London about the tactics used to pass the bill.

"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."

- David Collins

House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero said using Keno to balance the budget was desperate. "What's next, cockfighting?" he asked, according to The Connecticut Mirror.

The Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling has been speaking out against the addictive game for years. In a 2010 press release, CCPG Executive Director Dr. Marvin Steinberg said, "When there is a fiscal need, the government has had a knee jerk response to address the problem through generating new gambling revenue."

Senate President Donald Williams also now backs a repeal of Keno after voting for it last year.

In a statement, Williams said, "Because of Connecticut’s improving fiscal outlook, we can now begin to have a conversation about budget options. I think that it’s well known that I’ve have never been a supporter of Keno and I share many of the concerns first raised by Senator Stillman and now Speaker Sharkey."

As WNPR's Colin McEnroe wrote in The Hartford Courant last year, even the most aggressive projection by the state had Connecticut making a scant $30 million in fiscal year 2015, and budget officials had no firm answer for how many sites would offer the game.

This report includes information from The Associated Press.