Keno craze has locals lining up numbers

SANDUSKY Name your numbers. The Keno craze has locals lining up along the bars, keepi
Annie Zelm
May 24, 2010



Name your numbers.

The Keno craze has locals lining up along the bars, keeping one eye on the glowing screen while they glance at their cards.

In less time than it takes to finish a beer, they'll either walk away with a pocketful of cash or shell out a few more dollars in hopes of better luck next round.

Since the game debuted Aug. 4 in Ohio, bar and restaurant owners say it's been a winning endeavor for them and their patrons.

"It brings in more people, and it's something fun for them while they're drinking," said Amanda "Luie" Martinez, a bartender at D.J.'s Sports Bar on Cleveland Road. "It's a little addicting -- I never gambled before this, but I'll put down a dollar here, two dollars there."

Close to 1,000 Ohio retailers now carry Keno, and nearly 300 others are in various stages of bringing it on board, Ohio Lottery spokeswoman Marie Kilbane said Thursday. Erie County offers it at 21 locations. There are also eight listed in Ottawa County and seven in Huron County. The lottery commission estimates it will generate profits of $73 million by next June.

Kilbane said many retailers are new to the lottery, so they're still learning. To become licensed, retailers must undergo background checks and be bonded. In exchange, they receive 5.5 percent on the sale of any lottery game, as well as bonuses for cashing prizes up to $599.

"It's a great way for them to get incremental income and keep people in their venues," she said.

The quiet, more refined atmosphere of Piccolo's Wine Shop on U.S. 250 seems an unlikely spot to find Keno cards and flashing signs.

But owner Soozi Riedy said it's been met with moderate success.

The store always offered wine tasting events and lottery tickets, so Keno seemed a natural addition.

"We've had quite a bit of small winners, though not as much as you'd probably have at a bar," Riedy said. "We have a few regulars -- mostly ladies who come in with their friends and don't want to go to a bar."

At the Old Dutch Tavern on Perkins Avenue, owner Larry Gerold said the game seems to bring in new faces along with its regulars.

"Four hundred dollars is our biggest win so far," he said. "But a lot of people come in, win a few bucks and say, 'Oh, that paid for my lunch.'"

Mike Sortino, who manages the Thirsty Pony restaurant and entertainment complex at the corner of Cedar Point Drive and Cleveland Road, said the response to Keno has been so powerful that he added more employees to staff its sale.

"We've been one of the top sellers in the state," he said. "The response has been overwhelmingly positive -- so much so that the lottery has committed to providing us with additional resources like new flat-screen TVs."

The fast pace of Keno is enticing.

Players can wager anything from $1 to $20 and choose 1-10 numbers out of a pool of 80, using either a bet card or an automatic selection.

They may play up to 20 consecutive drawings on one card and win by matching their numbers to the 20 selected by the Ohio Lottery.

The lottery holds drawings every four minutes from 11:04 a.m. to 1:44 a.m.

Though there seems to be no surefire strategy, some players swear by the method of picking the same numbers for 10 or 20 rounds.

It may not score them the jackpot -- but in many cases, they'll have a better chance of winning their money back.

Jim Teague, a retired railroad conductor in Sandusky, prefers to pool his money with other players at D.J.'s Sports Bar. Others agree this seems to be a safer bet because the drawings tend to select numbers in clusters.

"I'm here pretty much every day," said Teague, 62. "I still play the regular lottery, but I like this because you don't have to wait all day to find out if you won -- just four minutes."

Though some speculate on their favorite numbers or tactics, Bob Steler, 47, of Sandusky said it's pure luck.

"There are no theories," he said. "You either win, or you lose."

Lorain resident Josh Notley, 33, stopped by the Thirsty Pony on Thursday to try his hand. He plays occasionally but has yet to reap the rewards.

"It's something to keep you busy," he said. "It's cheap, and it keeps your attention."


Erie County locations

Cedar Downs, 1935 Cleveland Road, Sandusky.

Piccolos Wine Shop, 1212 E. Hull Road, Sandusky.

Fireside Lounge, 1640 Milan Road, Sandusky.

D.J's Sports Bar, 1643 Cleveland Road, Sandusky.

Med's 800 Club, 1210 Sycamore Line Road, Sandusky.

Cold Creek Pub, 113 Main St., Castalia.

Knucklehead Saloon, 2012 Cleveland Road West, Unit A, Huron.

Riverview Lanes, 125 N. Main St., Huron.

Old Dutch Tavern, 2219 E. Perkins Ave., Sandusky.

Oliver's Pub and Grill, 5 Lake St., Berlin Heights.

Fraternal Order of the Orioles, 1814 Milan Road, Sandusky.

Brutus' Sports Pub and Grill, 4115 Boos Road, Huron.

Terry's Tavern, 1001 E. Bayview Dr., Sandusky.

Red Clay on the River, 5150 Liberty Ave., Vermilion.

Vermilion Country Club, 12210 West Lake Road, Vermilion.

Cameo Pizza, 702 W. Monroe St., Sandusky.

Johnny Malloys, 4835 Liberty Ave., Vermilion.

Clinkers, 1615 1st St., Sandusky.

Cheers Sports Bar and Grill, 4314 Milan Road, Sandusky.

Bar 101, 117 Main St., Castalia.

Ottawa County locations

Wee Willy's Sports Bar, 302 W. Main St., Marblehead.

Beer Barrel Saloon, 324 Delaware Ave., Put-in-Bay.

Traveler's Bar and Grill, 17 Monroe, Port Clinton.

Skip and Barb's Place, 131 W. Water St., Oak Harbor.

Cleats Port Clinton, 4046 E. Harbor Road, Port Clinton.

Anchor Inn, 8956 W. Ohio 163, Oak Harbor.

Tippers, 324 Delaware Ave., Put-in-Bay.

P.C. Lodge 1610 Loyal Order of the Moose, 1105 W. Lakeshore Dr., Port Clinton.

Huron County locations offering Keno

224 Varsity Club, 3598 Bullhead Road, Willard.

Crossroads Tavern, 6328 U.S. 20, Wakeman.

Hunters Brew, 27 Main Street, Greenwich.

Norwalk Eagles 711, 151 Cline St., Norwalk.