Carolina Keno, the newest draw game offered by the N.C. Education Lottery, is played in social settings such as restaurant, bars, and stores with spaces where people gather for food and drinks

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Lottery's new game draws comparisons to video poker

 — Carolina Keno, the newest draw game offered by the N.C. Education Lottery, is played in social settings such as restaurant, bars, and stores with spaces where people gather for food and drinks.

Drawings are conducted every five minutes, using a random number generator certified to produce random results, but it is the computer nature of the game which has some comparing it to video poker, which the state spent years attacking and eventually shut down.

The gaming industry came back with video sweepstakes. The state banned that too, followed by court battles, software changes and a flurry of raids by law enforcement officers to seize gaming machines.

Now, the state sees a jackpot of its own in video gaming that gives out cash prizes.

Doris Burch, who has played Keno, says it has a Vegas-like feel.

"I think I love Keno," she said. "I think I'll be playing it a lot more."

While North Carolina's gaming laws clearly say "video Keno" is illegal in our state, the lottery gets an exemption.

"I don't think it's going to look like Vegas," said Van Denton, a spokesperson for the N.C. Education Lottery. "I think it's going to look like people having fun together."

The new game spits out numbers in convenience stores, where players can gather, sit and play. But the new monitors are also popping up in restaurants and bars.

"Keno is designed, the way we designed it, is to be played in social settings," Denton said.

Steve Byers owns one of more than 600 establishments now cleared for Keno by the lottery. In the first week, he's seen the attraction for customers.

"It's exciting just to know new numbers are coming every five minutes. You try it once, it doesn't work, you can spend another dollar," Byers said.

Political strategist Brad Crone worked as a spokesman for the gaming industry in the past. He thinks the state pulled quite a card trick.

"The legislature said 'No, we're not going to do this,' and now we're back in the video gaming business," he said. "I think it's been the overall strategy of the lottery to shut down mom-and-pop video salons and for them to get into the video gaming business."

The Keno numbers are drawn randomly from a computer, so it takes luck, not skill to win. That contradicts the argument the state used for years in the fight against video poker.

The state lottery law gives the commission approval to start new games if they're offered by another state lottery. Video Keno is now played in 18 other states, including Georgia.

Denton says lawmakers supported the addition of Keno, and argues that it's not video poker.

"We don't think there's any comparison between Keno, a draw game, and other types of games," Denton said.

Supporters of the private gaming industry see a double standard.

"There's not five cents of difference between video gaming in a salon and Carolina Keno," Crone said.

Keno could be just the first groundbreaking and controversial offering from the lottery. The commission is considering a product called ilottery, which lets players get in the game wherever and whenever. A player would be able to buy tickets, collect winnings and transfer money between accounts.

Officials say it is all designed to attract millennials to the game.

Approximate overall odds to win a Keno prize range from 1 in 3.86 to 1 in 16.63.

Officials with the N.C. Education Lottery say they have been reviewing and studying Keno as a possible draw game since 2011.

http://www.wral.com/lottery-s-new-game-draws-comparisons-to-video-poker/17095329/