Keno Gambling Makes Debut in Maryland Amid Strong Opposition
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) _ At 6 a.m. Monday, a computer will start spitting out two-digit numbers picked at random and Maryland will enter a new world of legalized gambling.
Sets of winning numbers for the new keno game will be drawn every five minutes from 6 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week.
Patrons at hundreds of bars, restaurants and bowling alleys all over Maryland will be able to put down bets starting at $1 and watch video monitors to see if they have won prizes ranging from $1 to $100,000.
Gov. William Donald Schaefer touts keno as a revenue bonanza that will help keep the state budget in the black, but some others bitterly opposed the game’s introduction in Maryland.
Ocean City sued to try to halt keno and the Talbot County Council wrote Schaefer asking that it be kept out of businesses in the county.
″All of us think there’s some danger in having these kinds of machines in places where people drink. They could blow their whole weekly paycheck,″ said Clinton S. Bradley III, chairman of the Talbot County Council.
Keno is patterned after a game popular in gambling casinos.
Players pick from one to 10 numbers on a card with 80 numbers. The computer in Columbia, Md., picks 20 of those 80 numbers every five minutes. A player can bet from $1 to $20 on each game. Payouts range from $1 for one number to $100,000 for picking 10 correct numbers. Monitors display numbers as they are drawn.
At least 600 outlets will be ready Monday. The game, expected to be in 2,000 outlets within a few months, is similar to keno games in Oregon, Rhode Island, Kansas, California and West Virginia, said Marty Goldman, marketing director for the Maryland Lottery.
The agency also has drawn fire because the keno contract was awarded without competitive bidding to GTECH Corp., a Rhode Island company that has the contract to operate other lottery games in Maryland.
Richard Bennett, U.S. attorney for Maryland, is investigating the contract.
The Schaefer administration estimates lottery revenues will increase by about $50 million between now and June as a result of keno. That money will be used to keep this year’s budget from slipping into the red.
Opponents say the figure is inflated. William Ratchford, the legislature’s chief fiscal adviser expects the gain to be about $26 million, given that revenues from other lottery games will likely drop with the introduction of keno.
Keno was proposed by the governor in September, and Schaefer has pointed out that few opponents raised objections until after the budget plan was approved two months later. He also criticizes opponents for failing to offer alternate revenue sources.
″The governor has a responsibility to deliver a balanced budget,″ said Schaefer spokesman Joe Harrison. ″Given the lack of alternatives, we’re moving ahead with keno.″