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Keno? Just say 'no'

Published June 01. 2013 4:00AM

The governor and some of the legislators have changed since the last time there was a serious push to legalize keno gambling in the state, but the motivation is the same - desperation to find revenues to balance the state budget.

We don't like it anymore than we liked it then.

In 2010, the administration of Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell proposed legalizing keno. The annual revenue estimate was $60 million, but Gov. Rell wanted to parlay that into $1.3 billion by borrowing that much (the preferred term was securitization), use it to balance the budget, then earmark keno revenues for years to come to pay it off. The proposal did not win approval, thank goodness.

As crazy as that idea was, at least the Rell administration introduced it in March at the start of the session. The latest keno scheme arrives just a few days before the closing of the current session. House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, confirmed for reporters that there are discussions with Gov. Malloy's administration.

Democrats, who control the governor's chair and the House and Senate, are frantically looking for revenue to balance the budget. Introducing a major piece of legislation like this at the 11th hour is not the way to do it.

There is the added complication that the operators of both the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort casinos consider keno a casino game, giving them exclusive rights to offer it. State officials have in the past maintained keno would be a permitted extension of the lottery system. At the very least there will have to be high-level negotiations, making this last-minute proposal all the more absurd.

And, by the way, it is bad public policy. Lotteries prey on vulnerable, desperate people - those with the least disposable income and the most to lose when they fritter away the little money they may have. Introducing electronic keno in hundreds of bars and restaurants will exacerbate this tendency.

It is a cynical and unproductive way to raise revenue, leaving people with less money to spend on consumer goods that produce actual jobs. We don't like the idea of legalizing keno and like even less the effort to rush it into law.

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