HARTFORD, Ct. — Faced with strong skepticism from the Democrat-controlled legislature, the Rell administration started talks last week with Connecticut's two Indian tribes so that the state can legalize keno — a gambling game that is currently offered in the casinos.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell believes that keno is a lottery-style game and that the state's quasi-public lottery corporation can begin the game without approval by the legislature in the same way that it can start other lottery games. Officials said keno is not a casino-style game and would not violate the state's compact with the tribes.
The games would be offered in 600 to 1,000 bars, restaurants, and taverns across the state, and those retailers would also be asked to sell Powerball and all other lottery tickets.
Rell is proposing the controversial idea so that the state could receive an estimated $60 million per year to close budget deficits in the future.
"We think the $60 million number is a reasonable projection,'' said Rell's budget director, Robert Genuario. The profits would be about 20 to 25 percent to the state's general fund.
The estimate that the state could generate $60 million per year from keno is based on an average of surrounding states, as well as Maryland.
"While the administration believes that no new legislation is necessary ... that is not a statement that the administration or the Connecticut Lottery Corporation would implement keno in the absence of legislative approval,'' Genuario told the legislature's public safety committee in Hartford. "This is being presented to the legislature as a whole as part of the mandate to provide $1.3 billion in securitization.''
The Rell administration "has enjoyed a very positive relationship with both of our tribes,'' Genuario said.
Rep. Stephen Dargan, co-chairman of the legislature's public safety committee that oversees gambling, said he is concerned about the $377 million that the two tribes have contributed to the state in the current fiscal year in exchange for the right to run slot machines.
By comparison, the lottery currently generates $283 million annually for the state's general fund from the profits from a wide variety of games, including Classic Lotto. The record amount that was contributed to the state was $286 million in 2006, and the number dipped slightly because of the economy.