State workers out of luck -- keno machine is removed

January 09, 1993|By Sandy Banisky | Sandy Banisky,Staff Writer

Keno might boost the state budget -- but not the image of state workers.

For one short day, a keno terminal was attracting bettors in the lobby of the State Office Building on West Preston Street in Baltimore.

Too many bettors, it turned out, to look very good.

At lunchtime Wednesday, state Personnel Secretary Hilda E. Ford went downstairs to find a mob of gamblers, most of them state workers. "I asked someone what was going on, and he said, 'There's a keno machine here.' "

Perhaps they were just having a little fun on their lunch hours. Or perhaps, as dedicated workers, they were betting only to raise state revenues -- and maybe save their jobs.

But there are better places to play keno than at work, Ms. Ford said.

"The public is going to come through and say, 'See that?' That's what I want to avoid," Ms. Ford said, "because state employees are bashed enough. We would not want to generate any more opportunity for bashing state employees."

Ms. Ford called William F. Rochford, the Maryland State Lottery Agency director, who told her the machine had been put there "by mistake." The terminals are supposed to be installed in restaurants and taverns, not in workplaces.

By the end of the day, the $6,800 terminal and monitor were gone.

The state must absorb the $400 cost of installing phone lines.

"I realize that state employees are free to do anything they like on their lunch hours -- including keno, and rightly so," Ms. Ford says. "But this could create the impression that state employees were playing keno on state time."

Even keno's biggest booster, Gov. William Donald Schaefer, agrees.

"It's just not appropriate," said Page Boinest, the governor's press secretary. "There are other opportunities for state employees to play keno in other locations."

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