HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Keno games coming to Connecticut promise to add more gambling to a market that already is adding casinos and table games.
The $44 billion, two-year state budget sent by the legislature to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy for his expected signature includes authorization for the game of chance around the state.
The state estimates keno, based on the drawing of numbers, will generate about $31 million over two years from locations around the state. That total is after the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, which runs Foxwoods Resort Casino, and the Mohegan Tribe, which operates the Mohegan Sun, each receives up to 12.5 percent of gross operating revenue from the game.
Chuck Bunnell, spokesman for the Mohegans, said the share of keno proceeds earmarked for the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resorts Casino is fair and will help the casino weather a possible drop in casino revenue due to the availability of keno throughout Connecticut.
"We think it will offset the potential impacts to us," he said.
Revenue at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun has plunged during the recession, the weak economic recovery and in the face of fresh competition in the Northeast, particularly in New York. Three resort casinos are expected to open in Massachusetts in a few years and voters last fall approved Twin River's request in Rhode Island to offer table games.
And Resorts World Casino's racino, so called because it overlooks the Aqueduct thoroughbred track in New York City, is drawing billions of dollars.
"We believe there certainly is a finite amount of disposable income that people would spend in gaming," Bunnell said. "There is potential impact."
The 25 percent payment to the two casinos was not "totally pulled out of the air," Bunnell said. The Mashantuckets and Mohegans each pay the state 25 percent of monthly slot machine revenue in their gambling compacts with Connecticut.
Malloy and legislative leaders took a new look at keno to help generate revenue after opponents refused to consider a proposal by the governor to auction off electricity services for about 800,000 customers who haven't yet chosen a power company.
Republican Sen. Rob Kane, of Watertown, who voted against the budget, said the state is relying too heavily on gambling revenue.
"They're relying on potential income based on gambling rather than the real economy," Kane said. "Our whole economy is based on gambling and pure luck."
Republicans in the House and Senate also have criticized Malloy, a Democrat, and majority Democrats for spending too much time looking for revenue rather than cutting spending to close budget gaps.
Mary Drexler, executive director of the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling, said there was "no inkling" that the governor and Democratic leaders in the legislature had agreed to keno.
"This came out of nowhere for us," she said.
She says she's concerned that access to keno will be too easy in restaurants and other public places. In addition, keno is more addictive than other games because it provides instant gratification, which could make problem gambling worse, Drexler said.
"For problem gamblers in restaurants, gambling is staring them in the face," she said.
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