Keno claims challenged

February 26, 2014

Legislator releases emails allegedly contradicting Malloy
By Paul Hughes | Article as it appeared in the Republican American

HARTFORD — A Republican lawmaker says newly uncovered information contradicts Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s recent claims concerning his knowledge of how keno came to be included in last year’s budget deal.

Sen. Kevin Witkos, R-Canton, released an email exchange on Tuesday that he said shows top Malloy aides had drafted the exact provision on keno that appeared in the budget legislation two days before the legislature approved it.

However, there is no indication in that exchange that Malloy played a direct role in proposing keno or personally approved the language that his aides had drafted.

Malloy has told reporters recently that he was not part of the final budget negotiations, and that he was surprised that keno was part of the two-year, $37.6 billion budget plan.

There was some advance warning that the administration and the legislature’s Democratic leaders would be proposing to introduce keno.

In an online report that was published on the same day as the email exchange that Witkos is now citing, House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, had confirmed that keno was likely to be part of the budget plan.

The report did not indicate whether the administration or the legislature’s Democratic leadership had proposed keno. Republican leaders were shut out of the budget talks.

Witkos is disputing the truthfulness of the governor’s recent statements based on the email exchange that he obtained through a Freedom of Information request.

“The governor has stated repeatedly that keno was not his idea. However, his top officials clearly had advanced knowledge of the plans for keno and provided the language for the legislature’s budget,” said Witkos, who represents part of Torrington.

He accused Malloy of lying about his role and what he knew.

The governor’s office said Witkos has misconstrued the governor’s recent remarks to reporters.

“Sen. Witkos is wrong,” said Andrew Doba, Malloy’s communications director.

THE KENO LANGUAGE WAS PROVIDED to the head of the legislature’s budget office in a May 30 email from Michael Sullivan, the undersecretary for legal affairs for the Office of Policy and Management. It was the only document that the administration provided to Witkos in response to his FOI request from last July 23.

The email was copied to Benjamin Barnes, the governor’s budget director, and five other officials from the Office of Policy and Management. Barnes was the administration’s lead budget negotiator.

However, Malloy was not personally copied on the email from Sullivan.

When the governor spoke to reporters, he was not saying that he did not know about the inclusion of keno in the budget plan, but was rather expressing how surprised he was when he learned earlier that keno had come up in negotiations, Doba said.

Malloy had not made that distinction when he addressed the keno question.

Doba noted that Malloy had not included keno in the two-year budget proposal that he presented to the legislature. He said keno was one of the compromises made in the give-and-take of the budget negotiations.

Keno is a bingo-style game of chance based on the random drawing of electronically generated numbers. The budget plan approved last year relied on $31 million in projected revenues from keno over two years.

The plans for keno hinged on the cooperation of the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes because a compact with the state largely limits legalized gambling to the casinos on their reservations.

Barnes informed the legislature’s Appropriations Committee earlier this month that agreements had been reached with each tribe. The budget package gave the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes each a 12.5 percent cut of keno receipts as an incentive.

In his FOI request, Witkos demanded any documents related to negotiations between the state and the tribes on keno, any memoranda related to a keno agreement, and the basis of the revenue estimates.

He also sought any agreements or documents exchanged with any manufacturer, distributor or operator of keno machines, as well as any documents exchanged with the Connecticut Lottery Corp.

Witkos did not request any internal correspondence or other related documents on keno from the administration, nor did he request any correspondence regarding the negotiations over keno between the governor’s office and Democratic leaders.