The General Assembly's Public Safety and Security committee heard public testimony Tuesday on a bill that would repeal last year's law establishing keno in Connecticut.
In the waning hours of the 2013 legislative session, keno was quietly slipped into the two-year budget, expected to add $27 to 44 million a year to the state coffers. Republican lawmakers were outraged, in part because the keno deal was hatched behind closed doors, without a public hearing. But with a 500 million dollar projected budget surplus this year, it seems there's been a change of heart among legislative leaders and Gov. Dannel Malloy, who now say they oppose the bingo-like gambling game.
In written testimony, Robert Froelick, the state commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, urged lawmakers to move ahead with keno, adding that the game would increase revenue at VFW posts that have suffered financially during the recession.
Only one person appeared at the Capitol in person to testify before the committee, but after being grilled by committee members for more than 20 minutes, perhaps Frank Farricker wished he would have stayed home.
Farricker is chairman of the board of directors for the Connecticut Lottery Corporation, the organization charged with establishing and running keno in Connecticut. He spoke against the repeal, saying the process of launching keno was well underway, and adding that keno was "positioned in a positive way" in the state.
But Farricker quickly found himself the target of some pointed questions and comments by the committee. State Rep. Steve Mikutel, D- Griswold vented about how keno was introduced tenmonths ago. "Voting for keno, as it was buried in the budget," Mikutel said, "was the most distasteful rat that I have ever voted for."