Connecticut tribal chairmen backing bill allowing lottery to offer keno; hearing on Wednesday

The chairmen of the state's two federally recognized Indian tribes said Monday they still support a deal that would allow the Connecticut Lottery Corporation to offer keno.

Under that agreement, reached about 18 months ago, the tribes would each receive 12.5 percent of the revenues.

"We've already agreed to it in the past," said Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, adding how allowing the lottery to offer keno would not require reopening the compact between the tribes and Connecticut.

"The agreements are still in place," said Kevin Brown, chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Nation.

A bill resurrecting that plan is scheduled for a public hearing Wednesday before the Finance Revenue and Bonding Committee. The lottery says it wants to diversify its product line and ensure a steady stream of revenue for the state's budget. Lottery President Anne Noble recently said the lottery is financially healthy, but she is projecting a decline in contributions to the state's main spending account for the first time since 2008 — from $319 million to $312 million in fiscal year 2015.

By allowing keno to be offered by the lottery's 3,000 retailers and potentially 600 new retailers that run bars and restaurants, Noble has predicted possibly $25 million in gross revenues could be generated in the first year, $50 million in the second, $70 million in the third, and perhaps more in the future.

Keno was scrapped last year after lawmakers had second thoughts about allowing the lottery-type game. Democratic House Speaker Brendan Sharkey said Monday the lottery "is making a compelling case for why we should reconsider" keno.

Sharkey said he's pleased a hearing is planned, unlike in 2013 when keno was included in the budget to the surprise of some legislators.