Time for keno question to be answered again

Saturday, January 7, 2006

It's been more than 13 years since the voters of McCook resoundingly approved the playing of keno at local establishments. Now -- after six years without the number guessing game -- members of the City Council are considering whether or not to allow keno games to return to the community.

Councilman Phil Lyons, who also was a member of the council in 1992 when keno was approved, is leading the effort to permit renewal of keno games in McCook.

"Some are making this a moral issue," he said. "It's not. What this issue is about is following the wishes of the voters, who expressed themselves emphatically in the May election in 1992." The vote at that time was clear-cut in favor of keno, with 1,547 people voting yes and 819 voting no. That figured out to a difference of 65.3 percent in favor, to 34.7 percent against, which amounted to a difference of 738 ballots.

In the early years, keno was a popular diversion in McCook and the surrounding area, according to Stan Goodwin of McCook. Stan and his wife, Carmen, started a company, called ANAMCA Inc., which provided keno services in this area. They started in 1992, soon after the election, and continued until the last establishment dropped keno in 1999. "The game simply ran its course," Goodwin said.

At the peak, keno was offered at the Coppermill, Rockin' Robin, Sports and the Elks in McCook, as well as two establishments in Trenton and one each in Benkelman and Indianola.

Keno had a special fascination for Sharon Snyder, a McCook businesswoman who spearheaded the growth of Cornbelt Chemical Co. Following Sharon's death, keno play declined steadily in McCook until its abandonment in 1999.

But, now, keno companies and local bars have contacted the city, asking whether keno can be brought back. Partly, it's an economic issue, as a portion of the profits (up to 28 percent) are shared by the city and the keno companies.

If you have an opinion on the issue, now's the time to express it. At Lyons' urging, Mayor Dennis Berry has agreed to place keno on the council's agenda for Monday, Jan. 16. Viewpoints may be expressed through an Open Forum letter to the Gazette, or by contacting the members of the McCook City Council. They are Jim Kenny, Aaron Kircher, Bill Longnecker, Mayor Berry and Lyons.

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