Representatives from the two American Indian tribes in the state of Connecticut warned lawmakers on March 2nd, 2010 that Governor M. Jodi Rell's plan to have the Connecticut Lottery Corporation offer keno in bars and pubs in the state could affect the gaming compact Connecticut have with the tribes, placing its share of slot machine profits in peril.
A director of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Commission, John Meskill, said that what state officials is considering bears a close resemblance to what is being played at the two Indian tribe casinos, the Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun. Director Meskill said to the members of the General Assembly's public safety committee that it is very risky proposition.
Under the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) between the two tribes and Connecticut, the tribes will pay 25% of their slots earnings to Connecticut, which adds up to $400 million a year. The main counsel for the Mashantucket Pequot tribe, Jackson King, said that the tribes would not be obligated to give that amount of money if anyone else in Connecticut, including the Connecticut Lottery Corporation, is allowed to offer video facsimile or other commercial casino table games.
King said that if keno is considered a commercial casino game, then the tribes no longer need to pay the state regarding the slot machine revenues. King added that there is also an argument that keno might fall under the definition of slot machines. Keno has a lot of similarities to bingo.
In Gov. Rell's proposal, she proposed keno, which is usually enjoyed in restaurants and bars and involves numbers being randomly drawn every 4 to 6 minutes, as an option to raise additional $60 million for Connecticut. But Gov. Rell hopes to raise $400 million immediately to help solve the $1.3 billion budget deficit against future game revenues.
The executive director of Connecticut's Division of Special Revenue, Paul Young, said that he sees no reason why the state lottery cannot offer keno as a lottery game. He said that the game is similar to Cash five, Play three and Play four drawings. Young said that Connecticut regulators approved a tribal request in early 1990's, to offer the game of keno as a lottery game at the casinos because the state already possessed a lottery.
Young said that the casinos are permitted to offer any games that the state lottery has. Both casino facilities now have areas dedicated to the game, although King and Meskill acknowledged it is a small amount of percentage of the overall gaming business.
The Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling said that that it believes that the game would represent an expansion of an addictive form of gaming. The organization claims that it would just increase the risk of gaming addiction among minors because they are exposed to it while they are in restaurants.
Rep. Linda Orange (D-Colchester) said that she is worried that Connecticut has slashed funding to state agencies that help individuals with gaming addiction but is considering approving a new game. Rep. Orange said that she is disappointed that the prevailing thought in this situation is that they will gamble their way out of the financial crisis.
Robert Genuario, Gov. Rell's budget director, said that neither he nor Gov. Rell is a set on the game. He said that if the Connecticut legislature should decide that another revenue source is preferable, then they would honor the decision.