Connecticut Tribes Near Agreement to Offer Keno

The two tribes that operate casinos in Connecticut, the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequots, are negotiating to offer keno at the same time that the legislature is debating whether to repeal the games that it authorized for the lottery last year.

Although the Connecticut legislature is moving to repeal a law that would have allowed Keno in the state in 600 new locations and thousands that now allow the lottery, the two tribes casinos say they are near to an agreement with the state to offer the games if the law remains in place.

Both the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequots have sent agreements to the state Office of Policy and Management that would allow the state to offer keno. Such an agreement is required since the tribal state gaming compacts give the tribes the exclusive right to offer gaming, or else they can stop paying the state 25 percent of their profits.

These agreements would become moot if the legislature repeals the keno law, and Governor Dannel P. Malloy signs it, as he has said he would.

Although the state authorized keno at bars, convenience stores and restaurants last year as part of the state lottery, surveys show 59 percent of residents oppose it. The law was passed as a way to deal with the state’s budget deficit. However in recent months the deficit has turned into a $500 million surplus. Keno is expected to pay more than $30 million into state coffers annually if it remains on the books.

There are delays in the agreements because of differences in how the two tribes view the wording.

According to Frank Farricker, chairman of the lottery’s board of directors, “It has more to do with tribal politics. The last I heard, the Mohegans had signed and the Pequots had not. I don’t think anyone was against it, or that the governor or his staff is against it.”

He acknowledged that keno might be repealed, but said that until that happens, his office will continue working with the tribes. “There are some repeal bills out there. It may or may not happen. The tribes have said they are willing to sign it. The delay has taken place at Foxwoods. But I don’t see this as a partisan issue. It will rise or fall on the debate.”