The state inched closer to playing Keno when the Connecticut Lottery last week authorized buying equipment necessary to establish the numbers-picking game by next June.
The Connecticut Lottery Corp.'s Board of Directors on Thursday approved spending $5.4 million over two years to bring Keno gambling to at least 600 locations statewide and offer it to the 2,800 retailers now selling lottery tickets and other products.
"The resolution authorizes us to expend up to that amount to purchase software and hardware for Keno," said Frank Farricker, chairman of the lottery board. "I believe we are in a position to move forward."
Spending the money remains contingent on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's administration inking an agreement with the state's two Indian tribes, which have an exclusive right to offer gambling on their reservations.
That agreement will essentially say statewide Keno does not void the compacts between the state and the federally recognized Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribal nations. The compacts authorize gambling on tribal reservations in exchange for 25 percent of the slot machine revenue.
For years, both tribes argued that Keno is gambling, not a lottery game, and could be offered only on their reservations.
"It will state that they have no objections," Farricker said of the agreement. "We are optimistic this will be concluded shortly."
So far neither tribe has publicly objected to Keno, which was passed at the 11th hour as part of an overall budget deal during the recently concluded General Assembly session .
The state expects to take in nearly $31 million from Keno over the next two years. All of that money will be pumped into the General Fund or state budget.
The Pequots and the Mohegan Indians will each pay the state 12.5 percent of their Keno revenue. Each tribe will run their own Keno game while the state operates off reservation Keno.
Bars and restaurants with a bar are the most likely locations for Keno terminals, along with lottery retailers.
Keno involves selecting numbers, often using birthdays or important dates, and waiting a few minutes to see which ones are drawn. The process, usually conducted through small terminals, is run continuously as opposed to the lottery, which picks numbers once a day.
Both Farricker and Lottery President Anne Noble said the number of bars or restaurants offering Keno is still up for discussion. Noble said the goal is to have vendors offer both Keno and the other lottery products.
"The requirements are a willingness to sell lottery, offer responsible gaming and have sufficient traffic to sell the lottery. All vendors sell all of our products," Noble said.
"We look forward to a new audience and a net gain for the lottery," Noble said.
In addition to the $5.4 million for equipment and software to implement Keno, the Lottery projects spending $3.1 million to market, advertise and promote Keno.
The Lottery has been enjoying record growth while slot machine revenue at the two Indian casinos has been dropping.
For example, the Lottery last year posted $1.12 billion in sales, and put $312 million into state coffers, compared to $292 million from slot revenue at both casinos, a record low.