When the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee releases its revenue package today it will again, according to sources, gamble on revenue from keno to help balance the legislature’s two-year budget proposal.
In 2013, lawmakers adopted keno to close a budget gap but quickly repealed it in 2014 before it could be established.
Earlier this month, Connecticut Lottery Corp. President and CEO Anne Noble told the committee keno would generate $5 million in its first year after startup expenses. But draft documents from the Finance Committee show they expect it to raise $13.6 million in 2016 and $30 million in 2017.
“(Keno) will ensure that the lottery will remain a stable and sustained source of revenue for the state, not in the short term but in the long term,” Noble told the committee at a public hearing earlier this month.
However, like in 2014 when they repealed keno, lawmakers have already heard a lot of opposition.
“The public, through the General Assembly, has spoken that this is not what they want,” Sen. Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield, said earlier this month when he testified against the proposal. “We as a state should not be in the business of condoning gambling as a revenue source.”
Gambling addiction has “shattered” people’s lives, Hwang said, and that cost must be weighed against potential revenue the game would bring the state.
But Rep. Jeffrey Berger, D-Waterbury, co-chairman of the Finance committee argued the bill is about more than generating revenue for the state. He said it’s about ensuring the lottery remains competitive.
“It’s unfair to the Connecticut Lottery to say that, if we institute keno, then Connecticut’s going to be like Atlantic City,” Berger, who supports the legislation, said. “That’s a whole different (business) model.”
Berger and Noble both noted that the lottery financially supports gambling cessation programs for those with an addiction.
“It’s important for the state of Connecticut to support the Connecticut Lottery,” Berger said. “They need to be competitive. If we enact keno, that’s not taking care of our revenue problem, but what it will do is support the Connecticut Lottery in its business model.”
It was repealed in 2014 because of the public outcry against the game in an election year. This year is not an election year for lawmakers.
In March 2014, a Quinnipiac University poll found voters were not in favor of keno. An estimated 65 percent of voters opposed the establishment of keno in restaurants, bars, and convenience stores.
The Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee is expected to release their total revenue proposal at 11 a.m. today. It’s expected to match the Appropriations Committee package released on Monday, which would spend $19.9 billion in the first fiscal year and $20.6 billion in the second fiscal year. Those figures would represent spending increases of 4.6 percent in the first year and 3.3 percent in the second year to the budget.
The committee also is expected:
• to lower the overall sales tax rate while broadening the number of services and goods that are taxed;
• to approve a capital gains tax, and;
• to increase the income tax on the state’s wealthiest citizens.