State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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A closer look at keno

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Jan 16, 2013 8:39 PM

Photo by Scott LaMar/witf

The British firm soon to take over the Pennsylvania Lottery wants to expand games to include keno – a fast-moving game that, according to plans divulged here in Pennsylvania, would be played at a machine with a video monitor.

Keno players pick a set of numbers – up to 20, according to one gaming expert – and wait for a drawing. Crudely speaking, the more the player’s numbers match the figures pulled in the drawing, the higher the jackpot.

Sal Scheri, president of WhiteSand Gaming, has recently headed the Valley Forge Casino in Montgomery County. He said the drawings fly by quickly – sometimes as many as three a minute.

“You’ll have some people that will just try a few games and get up and leave and you’ll have some people that could sit there for, you know, an hour or more,” said Scheri.

Some lawmakers, most of them Democrats, have said keno resembles slots more than typical lottery games, where someone buys a scratch-off ticket or waits for a Powerball drawing. They have argued adding keno to the Pennsylvania Lottery is an expansion of gaming that requires legislative approval. The Corbett administration disagrees.

Camelot would bring the game to 1,000 retailers, like bars and restaurants, within the first year of its pending contract with the state. That number would swell to 3,000 retailers over the first five years of the contract.

The firm’s executives say keno is critical to meeting its promised profit levels.

Scheri said keno and slots offer two very different experiences. “The interaction is a little bit different. The time on the devices is probably – if you want to compare – is probably a little bit lower on the keno games,” he said.

Casinos have not been making their voices heard on the potential expansion of the Pennsylvania Lottery to include games like keno. Scheri said it’s because casinos don’t buy the idea that they’re going to lose slots customers to keno.

“We just don’t see the impact on casinos being that great,” said Scheri. “The [keno] games are not offered in a casino environment, they’re offered in very different areas, you know, perhaps a bar or a pub or a tavern. There’s not hundreds of thousands of them, there’s usually just a few.”


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