OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire is “seriously considering” legislation that would allow four-minute Keno games as a way to help deal with a projected $2.6 billion budget shortfall, The Seattle Times reported today.
The games could bring in an estimated $30 million a year. That’s not much money compared with the budget gap, but lawmakers are hunting for any cash they can find.
Similar bills have been proposed — and have died — in the past. Things could be different this time, given the severity of the state’s budget crisis, but the state’s tribes likely will fight any effort.
Washington already has a Keno game played once a day. Gregoire is considering allowing a new game every four minutes, the newspaper reported.
The governor hasn’t made a final decision, said Marty Brown, Gregoire’s legislative director. “She’s seriously considering it,” Brown said, noting it could be in her proposed budget due out early next month.
Budget writers in the House and Senate on Wednesday said they were open to the idea.
“I have not been a big gambling advocate in the past. But starting last (session) I was converted a little because of our budget situation, which has only gotten worse,” said House Ways and Means Chairwoman Kelli Linville, D-Bellingham. “Thirty million dollars here and $30 million there adds up to big money. No amount of money right now, for me, is too small.”
The state Legislature will convene in January to figure out how to plug the projected $2.6 billion in the two-year budget, which runs through June 2011.