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Arkansas Legislators Want Keno Ban

In response to pressure to raise more money for college scholarships, the Arkansas Lottery Commission plans to offer in September fast-paced Keno games players can follow on monitors. But a group of legislators said they'll introduce a bill banning the games at an expected summer session.

Several Arkansas legislators recently said they will introduce a bill to block the Arkansas lottery from offering Keno games with draws every six minutes that players would track on monitors. The bill would be introduced, if Governor Mike Beebe allows, at an expected summer session to address public school employees’ health insurance.

State Senator Jimmy Hickey said, “I don’t believe that whenever the voters put this in place that they envisioned that you would have gambling machines with screens throughout the entire state and in every city. We just want to be able to come with a bill in place so the Governor would know what he’s putting on the call.”

The Arkansas Lottery Commission approved the Keno games in response to pressure to boost falling sales, which has resulted in less money available for college scholarships. But Hickey and other legislators said the games are too similar to interactive video terminals, which were banned in the legislation voters approved to allow the state lottery.

Lottery Director Bishop Woosley said he plans to move forward with the Keno launch in September. He stated, “It’s the legislature’s call. If they ban it, we’re going to circle back around and start over.” Woosley added if lawmakers block the Keno games, the lottery will not lose money but staff time spent on the game will have been wasted.

State Senator Michael Lamoureux said he understands the Lottery Commission wants to increase money for scholarships. But he said the Keno monitors go beyond what voters approved. “I know there’s a lot of support for the anti-Keno bill but I don’t know if we’re at that point yet,” Lamoureux said.