Kentucky residents will be able to play keno in hundreds of restaurants, bars and bowling alleys. The Kentucky legislature’s Government Contract Review Committee voted 4-3 on party lines to approve a $635,000 contract with lottery vendor GTECH to provide the keno games in the state. Democrats voted to approve the measure and Republicans voted against it. In March the Kentucky Lottery Corporation voted to offer keno. At the time the legislature was debating whether to use the revenues from keno to shore up pension system. Ultimately the legislature voted to approve changes to the tax code to help the pension system and did not rely on expanded lottery funding. Despite the legislature’s actions the lottery moved forward with plans to offer keno.
Arch Gleason, chief executive officer of the Kentucky Lottery, said proceeds from keno will be used to fund merit based scholarships. Lottery officials estimate that keno will generate $8 million to $9 million in the first year. Keno players pick one to ten numbers and try to match those numbers with 20 numbers drawn by the lottery from a field of 80. The numbers are changed every four to five minutes. Players can win $100,000 from a $1 bet. Currently 13 states offer keno games. Kentucky lottery officials say that by October keno could be offered at 450 locations throughout the state.
Republicans said they don’t believe that the lottery has the authority to offer new games without changes in the laws. State Senator Beth Gregory told reporters “I think it’s really questionable whether the policy makers have made any real endorsement of making this change at this point. I view this as a pretty significant expansion from what our lottery offerings are at the present time.” One far right group the Kentucky Family Foundation is trying to decide whether to file a lawsuit to block the keno games. Earlier the group filed a lawsuit when the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission approved instant racing. The group’s spokesman Martin Cothran said “The outcome of the instant racing case could potentially affect our decision.”
Cothran said that when voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1989 that legalized lottery games they did not envision keno. Cothran stated “I think that what is going on now is that we are at least pushing the boundaries as to what people understand the lottery to be and possibly going beyond what was approved in 1989.”