Implemented by Governor Ted Strickland as a means to help protect the State budget from economic strains and pay off a growing budget deficit, Ohio's Keno offering simply has not lived up to the expectations of Governor Stickland, not to mention the Ohio Lottery, which oversees the new program. But for many, including the Ohio Lottery's Executive Director, Mike Dolan, meager Keno revenue is no big shocker. Just like every other sector in Ohio's economy, the Lottery is also facing hard times.
Another challenge, says Dolan, is finding more businesses and retailers for setting up Keno terminals. Currently, there are just 1,010 vendors with an additional 270 active applications, which is far short of the original goal of 2,000 by the end of 2008. The good news is that it isn't just a matter of getting any retailer to opt-in. While Dolan says that more restaurants and bars need to be more proactive about getting their customers to play Keno, the fact of the matter is that Ohio is being highly selective about where Keno machines can go up.
Opposition to Keno, which has primarily come from GOP lawmakers, have been quick to cite the lackluster performance of Keno thus far. Republican Bruce Goodwin said Keno vendors are disappointed by the meager revenue and that they were "sold on false hope". However, what Goodwin doesn't point out is that vendors are pleased with the fact that keno is bringing more foot traffic into their businesses, especially at the restaurants. In the end, it's more business.
Dolan says that if it weren't for Keno, the Ohio Lottery would be even further behind in sending profits to the lottery education fund (currently $3 million behind last year). He also points out that the Michigan Lottery is doing quite well due to Keno terminals. Since first being offered in late 2003, Michigan has set up keno terminals in over 2,400 businesses. Keno revenue in Michigan has steadily risen as well. For Michigan's fiscal year ending September 30, 2008, Keno revenue was up 7% from the previous year to close at $527 million.
2009 will certainly be a telling year for Keno in Ohio. With the economy expected to get even worse, the prospects of winning $300,000 on a $1 ticket may just be the thing that Ohio residents will go for.