LINCOLN — Keno players in Hastings can now get a ticket from a machine instead of a person.
The video “keno kiosks” now in service at Hastings Keno are allowed under a Nebraska law passed in 2011.
But those involved in the tavern-based form of gambling, and even one gambling opponent, say they don't expect the self-service video ticket dispensers to have a big impact on the game, which generates revenue for several Nebraska cities, including Omaha.
It may be a more convenient way to purchase tickets, but it doesn't speed up the game, they said. Most keno players are older and will continue to purchase their tickets from a human ticket writer.
“It's not a big game changer,” said Don Bellino, owner of Players Keno in Papillion. “It will let some people go high-tech, but it doesn't change the game any.”
Michelle Bliss of Ralston Keno said she hopes the machines don't displace her employees. “We like the customer service that people-to-people give,” Bliss said.
The keno kiosks were approved via Legislative Bill 490. The bill's main purpose was to speed up keno games from every five minutes to every 3˝ minutes, a change designed to increase wagering and revenue.
But that portion of the bill was stripped out, leaving only a provision that allows machines to dispense keno tickets.
State Sen. Russ Karpisek of Wilber, sponsor of LB 490, said the change would help small-town bars that might have only one employee serving drinks, frying burgers and writing keno tickets. Such clerks would have one fewer job to perform, he said, and it may be quicker to buy a ticket.
Clerks are still required to pay out any winnings.
“I don't think it will cost anyone their jobs,” Karpisek said. “I hope not.”
Pat Loontjer of the anti-gambling group Gambling With the Good Life said her organization opposed keno kiosks but didn't consider it a major change, like speeding up keno games would be.
Las Vegas-based Gambling Arts said it obtained approval from the state last week to install “EZ Keno Kiosks” at two Hastings Keno locations.
The company said the kiosks allow players to watch the keno game play out, or check past drawings, on a smartphone, tablet or computer.
Michael Nevrivy of Hastings Keno called the kiosks a “huge advancement” that will be more convenient for players.
Bellino said he may install a couple of keno kiosks at his Papillion parlor. Bliss said she was not aware that Ralston Keno was looking at the new technology.
Representatives of Big Red Keno, which operates the game for the City of Omaha, did not return phone calls on Friday.
A proposal to speed up keno games to every three minutes is pending before the Legislature in 2014. But Karpisek said he was doubtful about the bill's chances, given past opposition to allowing more keno games per hour.
About $212 million was wagered on keno in the 2012-13 fiscal year, according to the Nebraska Department of Revenue. It is the most popular form of charitable gambling in the state, attracting more than five times the bets placed on pickle cards, bingo and raffles combined.