It's keNO in McCook for now

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Despite a hard-sell by representatives of an organization that operates keno lottery games throughout Nebraska, The McCook City Council decided not to revive the game for now.

Mayor Dennis Berry, however, predicted the issue probably would be re-examined in the near future.

Representatives of the Nebraska Cooperative Government, based out of Columbus, told council members that their organization is used by 90 to 100 cities in Nebraska with roughly the same size as McCook, who split the revenue garnered through the games, approximately 9.5 percent of the gross proceeds.

Paul Schumacher of NCG explained that by a system of daily reports from the bar owner to the NCG and City staff, everything adds up and errors or inaccuracies can be recognized promptly.

"The last thing we want to have is any sort of scandal, or problem," Schumacher said.

Revenue varies from each town, he said, and depends mainly on the enthusiasm of the bar owner promoting the game.

Schumacher also said he believes there is a strong possibility that within 15 years, Nebraska will no longer have a 3rd District, with only two districts involving Omaha and Lincoln. Profits from the keno games would be "a vehicle to keep us in the running," he said.

"We're talking about a cash flow that will be spent anyway," he said.

If people wanted to win a lot of money, "why not just go to Las Vegas?" Councilman Jim Kenny asked.

"Because you can't do that on a Tuesday night across town," Schumacher said.

People who play these games are not always in the financial position to be spending that kind of money, Kenny said, to which Schumacher replied that "no one is putting a gun to their head -- it's their choice," and added that he didn't want to get into a "philosophical debate" about that aspect.

This is bonus revenue the city could use for special projects, he said, or for matching grant money. Voters would have to authorize the keno game before it could be operated, he said.

McCook last operated keno in 1999, at The Coppermill, Overtime, Sports and Willow Lanes. It was discontinued because of declining revenue. If a keno game is not operated in the city for a period of 10 years, according to the city manager's report, approval by city voters is required before it can be started again.

Mayor Berry made the motion to decline the renewal of keno in McCook, and Councilman Phil Lyons opposed the motion, saying more than 60 percent of voters approved the game and that they should have the opportunity to play if they wished.

He also cited that at least some of the proceeds would stay in the community.

Berry, Kenny and Councilman Aaron Kircher voted to decline renewing keno, with Councilman Bill Longnecker and Lyons voting for it.

Councilman Lyons then switched his vote to decline the game as well, saying he would make a motion at the next city council meeting to reconsider the issue.

Later, during council comments, Mayor Berry asked residents to contact council members with their feelings on the subject.

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