By Peter Amsel
Smartville Station, a local watering hole in the unincorporated community of St. Mary in Johnson Country, is having trouble making ends meet after its lone keno machine experienced a major malfunction last Halloween.
According to the Lincoln Journal Star, it was a truly spooky Halloween night when some of Smartville Station’s regulars noted that the machine had stopped generating numbers in a random fashion and was instead repeating the same pattern over and over again.
Bar owner Susan Goracke thought it was freak luck when seven of her customers claimed winning tickets each worth $500 or less that night. But Goracke started smelling a rat the following day, when her first customer of the day claimed a $6k ticket and another customer claimed a $3k winner shortly thereafter.
Goracke contacted the machine’s operator, Cass County Keno, which immediately shut down the device from its head office. Nebraska Dept. of Revenue officials and a Cass County Keno technician descended on the bar, ultimately determining that the hardware had not been tampered with but some kind of software glitch had occurred.
Johnson County Attorney Rick Smith is reportedly still mulling whether the gamblers who took advantage of the glitch are guilty of committing a crime. Cass County Keno’s attorneys are less conflicted; they claim keno is legally defined as a game of chance and anyone with advance knowledge of the winning numbers has eliminated the element of chance.
Cass County Keno cancelled the checks Goracke had issued to winners on those two days and had since issued checks only to players who aren’t still under investigation for alleged shenanigans.
Smartville Station no longer has a keno machine and Cass County Keno is reportedly not planning to install a replacement. Goracke said the lack of a keno option is biting deep into her bottom line, cutting about 7% off her monthly profits. She wants to get a new keno machine but isn’t sure any other keno company will be interested in stepping up to the plate.
According to the Nebraska Charitable Gaming Division of the Department of Revenue, statewide keno revenue was up 7% to $232.6m in fiscal 2014-15. Nebraska doesn’t allow casino gambling, making keno the most popular form of legally permissible gaming, which is such a sad fact that we can’t bring ourselves to make a joke about it.