Governor wins $4, says keno is great First-day handle put at $365,950

January 06, 1993|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Staff Writer

It's the kind of luck every politician could use.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer joined the ranks of Maryland's keno players yesterday -- and promptly hit a winner.

Governor Schaefer used a carefully planned event at Paul's Restaurant in Arbutus to familiarize himself with how keno is played and to reiterate his contention that revenue generated by the controversial game is the only way to prevent further budget cutbacks.

"I think it's exciting. I think it's a diversion while you're eating," Mr. Schaefer said after finishing an omelet covered with ketchup.

"I know when to stop. We won $4," added the governor.

Mr. Schaefer played two games by himself and a couple more by pooling his money with longtime friend Al Flora and restaurant co-owner Clemis Kaikis.

Meanwhile, the State Lottery Agency announced yesterday that people wagered $365,950 on keno during the game's first day of operation on Monday,

The figure is nearly three times the agency's own internal projection of $125,000 in first-day sales.

It is also well above the pace the agency needs to reach its public estimate of $1.8 million in sales for the first week.

Of the amount wagered Monday, between 56 percent and 58 percent was returned to the players in payouts, with the largest payout being $1,000, said Marty Goldman, the lottery's deputy director of marketing.

Mr. Goldman said keno's debut did not cut into the amount wagered on the lottery's other games. There was "zero cannibalization," he said.

On Monday, the lottery sold $2.3 million worth of tickets, including keno tickets, compared with $1.6 million in ticket sales the previous Monday, he said.

Keno features a new game every five minutes. Players choose 10 numbers from 1 to 80, which they attempt to match against the 20 the computer spits out for each game. Players may choose to match as few as one or as many as 10 numbers in each game.

Odds, and payoffs, depend on how many numbers -- or spots -- a player chooses to match per game.

The game has drawn sharp criticism from those concerned about the state's reliance on increased gambling revenue to balance the budget.

Late yesterday morning, Paul's, a family restaurant that was one of 600 outlets to begin offering the electronic game Monday, was festooned with green and gold balloons and keno signs.

The marquee of the Hollywood Theater next door proclaimed in capital letters: "Congratulations Gov. Schaefer Maryland State Lottery Keno."

Mr. Schaefer arrived at the restaurant packed with reporters and diners at 11:30 a.m. and sat down at a table with Lottery Director William O. Rochford and Mr. Kaikis and his partner Phillip Christ.

After being shown how to fill out his game slip, Mr. Schaefer, a regular Lotto player, bet the minimum of $1 on a one-spot game, meaning he had to match one number to win $2. He picked 36 -- "It never wins but it's a good number" -- and lost.

He then placed another $1 bet on the 10-spot game, which offers a maximum payoff of $100,000, and won $4.

The governor continued to play as he ate, pooling his bets and his winnings with his friends. He came out $4 ahead.

Between games, he said he would veto any legislation that would restrict keno in Ocean City, where officials concerned about tarnishing the family image of the beach resort have gone to court to try to stop the game.

And the governor again challenged critics of keno, which he hopes will generate $50 million for the state in the next six months, to "come up with an alternative that does not close more nursing homes."

Mr. Schaefer apparently was referring to a plan that would have cut state-funded medical benefits for 1,900 nursing home patients to help balance the budget.

The governor put that plan on hold last month, saying proceeds from keno probably would make up for the $7 million the state would have saved by cutting the benefits.

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