Sep 2, 2013
06:01 AM
Connecticut Today

As Connecticut Prepares for Keno, a Look at How It Plays in Massachusetts

As Connecticut Prepares for Keno, a Look at How It Plays in Massachusetts

Melanie Stengel/New Haven Register

Joe Barbarato plays Keno daily in the Dairy Store in Agawam.

AGAWAM, Mass.--After his daily nine-hole golf game, Joe Barbato spends most of the day hanging out at the Dairy Store on Suffield Street.

Sure, you can buy milk, snacks and cigarettes there, but the Dairy Store isn’t really like a Cumberland Farms. It’s actually a keno parlor.

Long, low counters are lined up behind each other, so keno players can sit, fill out their betting slips and watch the monitor above them on the wall. Since there’s a new game every four minutes, guys like Barbato don’t get bored.

“I do excellent … I do have a system,” Barbato says. “I probably bet over 100-something dollars a day without a doubt.”

Keno parlors aren’t likely in Connecticut, at least at first, but the game, which the General Assembly legalized in this year’s session, may pop up at bars and restaurants so, as in Massachusetts, people can play as they eat dinner or socialize at the bar.

The attention-grabbing monitor used for keno displays 80 numbers. In each game, 20 are randomly selected as winners.

Bettors pick as many as 12 numbers, but usually choose fewer. You can bet $1 on one number; if it’s a match with one of the 20 winning numbers, you win $2.50. Oddly, if you bet $1 on 12 numbers and don’t match any, you still win $4.

But the most common bet is a “five-spot game,” because matching all five of your numbers brings you $450 for a $1 bet. Anything less than $600 and you get paid on the spot — and the tax man won’t be the wiser. Otherwise, you have to go to Massachusetts Lottery headquarters to collect your winnings.

Barbato, who also travels regularly to Atlantic City, N.J., said “everything’s got an addiction. You’ve got to know when to stop.” Barbato says he’s not addicted: “I don’t bet what I don’t have and I don’t borrow to bet and you don’t lend.” He also never complains about losing, he said, which he calls the mark of an addict.

Another man sitting at a counter watching the monitor, Pete Towle of West Springfield, said he plays 10 or 15 games two or three times a week and has been coming to the Dairy Store for 15 years. “It’s sort of like ‘Cheers’; everybody knows your name,” he said. There’s even an outdoor patio in the back.

Besides the large number of potential winning numbers, keno differs from other games, like Pick 5 or Powerball, in the number of games a day — 300 — and in the kinds of places that have the game prominently displayed: bars and restaurants. There’s also a “Keno to-go” option, in which you can make a bet at a gas station. But there’s no monitor so you have to check the winning numbers on your computer or come back to have your ticket scanned.

Keno is “what we call a social game and offered in bars, taverns,” said Beth Bresnahan, spokeswoman for the Massachusetts State Lottery. “There’s more interaction. It’s more of an entertainment option, while having a couple of drinks, going out to dinner.”

Keno is expected to come to Connecticut sometime in 2014. It was included in the budget deal passed at the end of this year’s General Assembly session. House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, has objected to the way it was pushed through to balance the budget, without a public hearing.

Frank Farricker, chairman of the Connecticut Lottery Corp.’s board of directors, said his best guess is that Connecticut gamers will be able to play keno in April 2014. He said the September meeting of the board will vote on a $2.7 million allocation “to start to implement the physical aspects of keno,” including buying hardware and software and hiring staff.

See the full story at New Haven Register online.

 

As Connecticut Prepares for Keno, a Look at How It Plays in Massachusetts

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