The Massachusetts Lottery will roll out a new monitor-based poker game early next year, replacing an existing racing game that proved to be a flop.
The poker game, described for now as World Wide Poker, is similar to KENO and will be played on a monitor at many of the same venues as KENO, Lottery officials said during a Lottery Commission meeting Tuesday.
Approximately 1,000 KENO retailers will test out the new game when it is introduced in three to four months, according to Paul Sternburg, executive director of the Lottery. There are around 3,000 KENO retailers across the state which could eventually carry the poker game.
Sternburg described the game as “basically KENO” but played in a different platform. Players will pick between 5 to 7 cards from a deck of 52 cards that flash face down on a screen. Poker players will win cash based on their hands. The details of the game are still being finalized, along with the payouts . The jackpot could be worth as much as $75,000 and grow if no one wins, Sternburg said.
The commission on Tuesday approved a $1 million contract over three years with New Vision Gaming and Development, which developed the concept for the game.
The new poker game is being rolled out as the state gears up for casino gambling, expected by many industry watchers to take a chunk out of Lottery revenues. Lottery sales are projected to take anywhere from a 3 to 10 percent hit once casinos are up and running.
Sternburg said the introduction of the poker game is unrelated to casinos opening in the state. Lottery officials began looking to replace the racing game two years ago. Sternburg said he does not expect the poker game to be affected by casinos any more than other Lottery games, saying it is “not really a card game. It is really just KENO.”
“Whether casinos were coming or not, we decided to do this,” Sternburg said. “We thought the concept would work well.”
Lottery officials plan an aggressive schedule for the game’s introduction. Officials hope to have it running at 1,000 locations by late winter to early spring.
The poker game will replace The Daily Race Game. The horse racing game, introduced five years ago, did not generate the sales officials projected, according to Beth Bresnahan, director of marketing and communications at the Lottery. Initial projections predicted the race game would generate close to $175 million in annual sales. It never got above $20 million. By comparison, KENO brings in $800 million annually.
“It never caught on,” Bresnahan said.
Lottery officials said they expect the card game to resonate with local players more than horse racing.
While the game shares a theme, it is not the same as internet poker.
Last year, Treasurer Steven Grossman expressed strong opposition to a Republican lawmaker’s attempt to legalize online poker in the state, calling it “reckless and irresponsible,” as well as a violation of federal law.
Rep. Daniel Winslow (R-Norfolk) tried to amend the expanded gambling legislation to authorize the gaming commission to draft regulations to oversee the online poker industry, including sanctioning up to five online poker operations. His amendment eventually failed.
Winslow said Tuesday afternoon that although he and Grossman started out publicly disagreeing on internet gaming, they now work closely together on the issue. Winslow is a member of the Treasurer’s Internet Gaming Task Force, developed to look at the potential for internet lottery games and internet gaming in general. The group is expected to release a report in January, which could be accompanied by suggested legislation, Winslow said.
When asked about the lottery poker game, Winslow said, “I think any non-tax revenues for cities and town is a good idea. I think we should explore all options.”