How Was Keno Legalized In Connecticut?

The expansion of gambling was discussed out of public earshot.

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Keno advertisement in Washington, D.C.
Keno is already legal in Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island. Photo:Daniel Lobo (Flickr Creative Commons)
David Collins on WNPR's Morning Edition
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David Collins on WNPR's Morning Edition

This was not the first year that Keno was discussed in the state of Connecticut. But its inclusion in the 2013 budget surprised many - including those who thought they were following it closely.

Earlier this week,  executive director of the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling Mary Drexler said she's been in contact with Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman about Keno for the last two years.

"I did not get any word on this until Friday of last week," said Drexler about the deal that passed the legislature.

Now, the story about how the deal came about is coming to light. In a column for The Day, David Collins said, "Lawmakers whispered among themselves about it. The two gambling tribes knew about it. Certainly the governor, who would never miss an opportunity to appease the tribes, was in the loop."

Speaking on WNPR's Morning Edition, Collins talked about the tribes' reaction to the expansion of gambling. "They were comfortable with it," said Collins. "Clearly they were in on it, and the people of Connecticut were not."

Collins criticized the legislative process of legalizing Keno. "You can't take a major step like this and expand gambling in such a major fashion and do it in a way without having public hearings, public notice."

Collins added that it was clearly an "11th hour" bill. He's not even sure that the discussions surrounding Keno made it down to the rank-and-file legislators.