Lottery Says 29 Towns to Vote on Keno Starting in March

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BY MICHAEL CASEY, Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Twenty-nine communities will vote in the coming months on proposals to set up the electronic bingo game keno, which would help fund full-day kindergarten, according to the New Hampshire State Lottery.

So far, 66 communities have approved keno either through elections or the town meetings, and 166 establishments offer the game statewide. Sales have totaled $23.8 million and profits reached nearly $4.5 million.

"The New Hampshire Lottery is pleased to have 29 more communities set to vote on KENO 603, which continues to pick up momentum across the state," Charlie McIntyre, the executive director of the New Hampshire Lottery, said in a statement. "As more communities approve the sale of the game allowing more establishments to offer the game, revenue will continue to grow in support of full-day kindergarten."

The cities of Berlin, Claremont, Franklin, Laconia, Manchester, Nashua, and Somersworth approved keno during municipal elections in 2017, allowing the New Hampshire Lottery to launch the new game in December of that year. This time around, the towns of Merrimack, Woodstock, Loudon and Londonderry are among those voting on it.

A keno player chooses from one to 12 numbers, and every five minutes a computer randomly generates and displays 20 winning numbers from 1 to 80. A player can wager from $1 to $25 per game.

Communities will receive the kindergarten funding regardless of whether they allow the game. In the past, the state has provided $1,800 per student for kindergarten, or about half of what it contributes for older students. Under a bill passed in 2017, that amount will rise to $2,900 this year, and higher in future years if keno revenues exceed expectations.

The strategy to use gambling to fund education has been welcomed by most towns but some residents at public hearings have voiced reservations about the approach and several towns voted keno measures down. Some residents have expressed concerns about using a funding mechanism that relies of a person's weakness while others argued gambling would only add to a community's problems.

One of the towns that rejected it last year was Conway but officials there decided to put it up for another vote in April. Town Manager Thomas Holmes said the Board of Selectmen heard a presentation from the lottery commission which allayed their fears mostly about keno leading to a spike in gambling problems. The proposal was narrowly defeated last year in Conway by only a few dozen votes.

"They had questions like does it cause people to spend too much money, gambling addiction and all that kind of stuff. The lottery commission seemed to have answers for their concerns ... They reported they had not had any problems they could think of regarding the system," Holmes said. "When my Board of Selectmen goes into the voting booth, probably not 100 percent of them will vote for it. But they felt the public deserved another shot at weighing in on it."