Keno won’t help the state end next fiscal year in the black and the likelihood lawmakers would repeal the bingo-style game seems even slimmer than it did just a few weeks ago.
The state needs the revenue even more now than it did earlier this year when lawmakers introduced three pieces of legislation calling for its repeal.
According to the budget approved last year, the game will be run by the Connecticut Lottery and the revenues will be split with the two tribal casinos. It’s estimated to bring in $13.5 million in 2015 and $27 million in the following years.
Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, said Tuesday that budget negotiations are still in a holding pattern until they get the final revenue estimates Wednesday from financial analysts. As of Tuesday, revenues were $356.9 million, or 22.5 percent, below target through April 28, according to the legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis.
Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford, a staunch opponent of gaming, said she hadn’t heard whether it was still part of the budget. She said she made her position known early in the process.
Walker is not as passionate as Stillman about gaming issues.
“They can go to the state next door to play,” Walker said outside the Senate chamber Tuesday night. “Everyone else in the New England area is subscribed so it’s a mixed bag for people.”
Walker was unable to say whether it would be in the budget. But Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, said lawmakers are kidding themselves if they think it’s possible to cut revenue at this point.
McKinney, who as a Republican doesn’t have a seat at the table, said he has not heard whether keno would remain in the budget. However, he’s proposed amendments eliminating keno on several bills and will be working to make sure they get one vote on the concept.
Keno is not popular with Connecticut voters, but it remains a last-ditch option in budget negotiations when lawmakers run out of ideas to balance the budget. None of those involved with negotiations last year have claimed credit for the idea and many felt surpluses predicted earlier in the year created an opportunity for repeal. Those surpluses have since dissipated.
In a recent March Quinnipiac University poll, 65 percent of voters opposed keno. In two previous polls, 59 percent and 70 percent of voters opposed it.
Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has consistently said he would sign a bill repealing the game if that’s what the legislature wanted. But he has never called for repeal outside of the legislative process.
Monday on WNPR’s Where We Live, Malloy said he would still sign legislation repealing keno if it were passed. When asked by host John Dankosky if he supported keno as a way of making up tax revenue shortfalls, Malloy answered “that’s not the way I would go about it.”
Asked if he would “push for” keno’s repeal, the governor said, “I think I just did.”
“I said I called for it, which I did before the session, and I’ve repeatedly said I would sign it. So I am calling for it,” Malloy said.