Christine Stuart photo
Connecticut Lottery Board of Directors meets at their headquarters in Rocky Hill (Christine Stuart photo)

The Connecticut Lottery Corporation took the first steps Thursday toward implementing the bingo-like game of keno in the state of Connecticut.

The Connecticut Lottery Corporation Board of Directors approved a resolution that authorizes it to spend $5.4 million on game development. The vendor named in the resolution is Scientific Games. The same resolution approved an additional 600 new retailers to offer both lottery and keno. Lottery games are currently sold by 2,840 retail establishments in the state.

In addition to the $5.4 million that it will take to get the game off the ground, a subcommittee is expected to approve about $3.1 million for marketing, promotional, and advertising costs associated with the new game.

The game is expected to generate $3.8 million in revenue for the state in 2014 and $27 million in revenue the following year.

Lottery board members and staff made it clear that the money to implement keno won’t be released until the two tribes sign off on a revenue sharing agreement. Prior to the General Assembly’s adoption of this year’s budget keno could only be played at the two tribal casinos under a deal negotiated by former Gov. Lowell P. Weicker.

The agreement with the two tribes is being brokered by the Office of Policy and Management. Lottery Corporation Chairman Frank Farricker said his understanding is that the compact signed 20 years ago by the state and the two tribes won’t need to be opened in order to come up with a keno revenue sharing agreement. The tribes, which have exclusive gaming rights in Connecticut, will split 25 percent of all the keno revenues (less the prize money) from the state for agreeing to allow the game to be played outside the reservation.

As part of that agreement with the tribes keno won’t be considered a “lottery” game, Farricker said.

Last month, Republican Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero expressed concern about implementation of keno. Thursday was the Lottery Corporation’s first meeting since June.

It’s unclear at the moment how many of those 600 new retailers will be bars or restaurants and how many will be convenient stores or gas stations. There’s also no information available on how many Connecticut residents may play the game.

Connecticut Lottery President and CEO Anne Noble said she wants to make sure the venues where keno is play “attract a primarily over 18 population.” They will also have to be venues with a lot of foot traffic.

Noble said the amount of traffic a venue receives whether its a “pouring house” or a “gathering spot”—is always a criteria for approving a new lottery retailer.

Unlike other lottery games, keno is a more social game when it’s played in bars and restaurants where patrons can look at a television screen or monitor every five minutes or so for the numbers being drawn. In some establishments employees will instruct customers on how to play the game where you choose numbers between 1 and 80. Twenty of the numbers are drawn after customers make their wager by picking their numbers.

Noble said the only difference between keno and other lottery games is that in some establishments it would be appropriate to have a monitor to display the winning numbers.

“It’s played like any other draw game. It’s bought like any other draw game,” Noble explained.

So who will play keno in Connecticut?

“I am not in possession of any research that says who in Connecticut would play keno,” Noble said.

But she’s hoping for a new audience.

“Whenever the lottery launches a new game it’s looking for a new audience and whenever the lottery launches a new game there is some cannibalization of existing games,” Noble said. “We wouldn’t expect this game to behave differently.”

What will keno in Connecticut look like?

Keno retailers won’t be much different than the other 2,840 lottery retailers.

“All of our vendors sell all of our products,” Noble said.

It’s not clear that restaurants offering keno would be mandated to sell scratch tickets and other lottery products, but Noble said the question goes to some of the marketing and design of the games.

She declined to explain further since the discussions about the rules and information about how exactly the game would operate are still preliminary.

“Those decisions really haven’t been made yet,” Noble said.