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Las Vegas isn’t the only place to play Keno. The California Lottery offers Hot Spot (keno) at numerous locations throughout the state.

In the San Diego area alone there are nearly 100 places offering this game, and recently I found a very nice spot – the Tomcat Bar and Grill.

Tomcat is located at 9388 Mira Mesa Blvd., #B in San Diego and easily reached by bus 20, 31 or 921; or by car via Interstate 15 to Mira Mesa Blvd., then west on Mira Mesa. They are open seven days a week, usually to about 2 a.m., but even if business is slow for the night, they never close prior to midnight. Plus, in accordance with California law, they are 100% non-smoking.

In addition to Hot Spot, Tomcat has a machine for lottery scratchers and sells regular lottery tickets, including Powerball. They also have two pool tables and some video games.

Based on available cash on hand, they pay off most small winners at the facility; larger winners can go to the nearby lottery office on Ruffin Road by car, bus, bike, or limo to collect winnings. (Yes, it is within bike riding distance.) Please, if you did order alcohol and have a car, let the designated nondrinking driver do the driving. Everyone wins that way!

I found this place recently as I was on my way back home from Mesarim Indoor Climbing Gym. They were reasonably close by, and I am glad I stopped to check them out. The staff was extremely friendly when I inquired about their offerings. Donna was especially helpful, answering all my questions in a courteous manner and explaining things very well.

There is a video TV screen that displays the regular Hot Spot (keno) draws every four minutes. All the necessary tickets (play slips) are available to fill out. At times, depending on how busy they are, they may take tickets from your seat. Other times you need to take them up to the bar.

I found the place to be clean and smoke free. But the best feature: They have a very solid American menu, including steaks cooked to order. There are also burgers, hot and cold sandwiches and varied house specials such as Cajun catfish, fish-n-chips, shrimp quesadilla, and grilled salmon.

The menu has about 10 appetizers (one for each spot?) as well as five kinds of salad. The prices are amazingly low for the quantity and quality of the food. Depending on what you order, $15 to $20 per person will definitely cover you, including tax and tip.

For convenience the menu prices include the sales tax. For example, the $9.95 top sirloin is $9.95, not $10.75, as the tax is included. Only the beverages are extra.

What is great is you can play keno while you eat.

But since it is part of the California lottery, the bad news is there are no way tickets, so you need to play a separate ticket for each “way.” And, it is $1 or $2 a way if you include the Bulls Eye option.

The bulls eye is one of the numbers selected randomly. If it is part of your hit you get the added bulls eye payouts. For August the lottery has a special promo with increased bulls-eye payouts.

Now, as I said, since there are no way tickets, you have to play a separate ticket for each way. Thus, if in Vegas you are used to playing 1-6-53-54-57-59-60-80 as one 8 and eight 7’s, you would have to write out nine separate tickets (play slips), the first one for all 8 of the numbers, and then eight more, each for 7 numbers, omitting a different number of the above for each ticket (play slip). If you hit 7 numbers or more, the #20 bus goes directly to the lottery office from Tomcat’s.

Should you hit some of your numbers you will have multiple wins. Turn in all the tickets to be sure you have not missed a winner. If you hit 7 numbers or more, the #20 bus goes directly to the lottery office from Tomcat’s.

It is possible to hit the bulls eye without hitting a regular ticket pay.

The return on this gamble is about 55%, although the high end is subject to pari-mutuel adjustment upward, if it goes for a while without being hit. Various minor game to game promos that appear on the screen may also increase your payback slightly. Here are the August promotional payouts. They offer play for 1 to 10 spots, multi game play up to 100 games. You can play from $1 to $20 per game. (

A fun dinner ticket might be the bulls eye 6-spot as you get regular pay from 3 out of 6 up and bulls eye pay on any number of spots hit if you made the bulls eye number that was drawn one of your selected numbers.

If you take an hour to order and dine and just 15 regular 6-spot tickets you have spent about $50 total (keno, meal, tip) and this is if no numbers come up in 15 games – highly unlikely.

Even in the absence of a fair winner, you should get back something for the 15 games, and if your ship comes in (on the dry land of the Mesa) you will have cash to splash around for yourself!

Although there are no comps as the keno game is part of the state lottery, if you are a regular customer I am sure your service will be handled accordingly, and you now have a fun place to dine and play.

 Look at the low menu prices and the tax being included as an upfront comp. Go for the delicious meals and give the California state lottery a try.

If you hit it big, just tell the limo driver you hired to take you to the lottery office, and after collecting (if you hit all 8 numbers, guess for 7 you will take the bus?) get back on I-15 going north to head to your favorite Vegas Keno Haunt!

Pesach Kremen is a former UNLV Masters Gaming student, has won and placed in multiple local keno tournaments, and has written several academic papers on Keno. You can reach him at [email protected].

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