Too many wins results in live draw keno being placed out of service

January 10, 2019

SCOTTSBLUFF — Keno players in Scotts Bluff County were winning more often than usual over the New Year’s Eve weekend, according to Scotts Bluff County Management Accountant Lisa Rien, whose office oversees keno in the county.

However, their unusual string of luck has put the live version of the game out of service for the time being.

While most of the state uses a computerized random number generator to draw keno numbers, Scotts Bluff County is the last place in the State of Nebraska where a game of keno can be played by a live rabbit ears ball draw.

Under state regulations, three lottery workers are required to operate the live draw version of the game. The “caller” operates the keno ball blower and rabbit ears to randomly select ping pong style balls with numbers printed on them. Once the balls are selected, the “marker” enters the number into the keno system which simultaneously displays the numbers on the keno display boards and video display monitors. The keno manager then checks the numbers drawn by the caller against the numbers entered by the marker to make sure they match. The exact same game is played at all six Scotts Bluff County keno locations (two in Mitchell, one in Morrill, and three in Scottsbluff).

However, it’s at the county’s main keno parlor — the Lucky Keno inside the Frontside Bar and Grill on Ave. I — where the live drawing occurs and is broadcast to the other locations.

Rien said the county’s keno operator, Andy Clarkson of Lucky One LLC, has a protocol for how often the sets of live draw balls are supposed to be rotated out. The balls need to be swapped out regularly and cleaned of residue to ensure the game stays fair. But, with the spike in wins, it’s unclear if that protocol was being adhered to.

“(Clarkson) has a very specific way those sets are supposed to be handled as far as the rotation goes,” Rien said. “Over New Year’s Eve weekend, people played enough Keno that they saw certain numbers appear again and again. They started placing bets and winning more.”

With the irregularity of those payouts, Clarkson was required to report that to the state.

“The state told him to stop and turn off the live drop, and the state will investigate,” Rien said.

Clarkson said Wednesday that someone from the state was on their way on Wednesday afternoon to investigate.

“The state is going to look into what the issue was with the balls and what we’re going to do going forward,” Clarkson said. “It’s not that they’re gone forever, but it’s just that at this point we’ve had to revert back to the random number generator until the state tells us what to do at this point.”

“It’s labor intensive and requires a lot to keep it operating, and because it costs a lot of money, it’s driven a lot of people on the opposite side of the state away,” Clarkson said. “We strive to keep it running because it is something special.

The most important thing is to keep the game legal and running, Clarkson said. Games are being run using a computerized random number generator for the time being until after the ball situation is sorted out.

Aas for those players who were exceptionally lucky over New Years, Clarkson said, “All of the wins were paid in full.”

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