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After denial of keno in Concord, businesses hope to cash in after town meeting

  • The New Hampshire Lottery vending machine inside Alan’s of Boscawen is where the restaurant plans to put the keno screen if the town votes for the game at town meeting. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • The co-owner of Kimball’s Cav’ern Bob Cavanaugh said he’s looking forward to the upcoming vote on keno at Pembroke’s town meeting. He said he’s ready to bring keno into the tavern if the town votes yes. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • The sign outside Alan’s of Boscawen leaves little doubt over how the restaurant feels about bringing keno to the town in the upcoming vote at town meeting. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • The co-owner of Kimball’s Cav’ern Bob Cavanaugh said he’s looking forward to the upcoming vote on keno at Pembroke’s town meeting. He said he’s ready to bring keno into the tavern if the town votes yes. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Bob Cavanaugh doesn’t mind the idea of his pub becoming a destination for people who want to play keno.

Cavanaugh, owner of Kimball’s Cav’ern in Pembroke said he’s been hoping the digital gambling game would come to town for a while – especially since it was denied in Concord last November.

“It wouldn’t be bad for business, that’s for sure,” Cavanaugh said. “It might even draw new people over here.”

Pembroke is one of nearly 80 towns in the state that will be voting on keno this month. At least three other towns that directly border Concord – Boscawen, Loudon and Bow – will also consider the game.

MAny restaurant owners in towns surrounding Concord hope keno will be an opportunity to cash in on business from the Capital City. “Keno 603,” a digital cross between bingo and a lottery scratch ticket, was proposed by state lawmakers last year as a way to fund full-day kindergarten.

It was passed in city elections in Franklin, Claremont, Nashua, Laconia, Manchester, Berlin and Somersworth in the fall, and it has grossed more than $2 million statewide since then, according to a spokesperson for the New Hampshire Lottery Commission.

Four out of the five highest-grossing keno locations are in Somersworth and Manchester, according to N.H. Lottery data. The two most lucrative locations – 2 Doors Down in Somersworth and Southside Tavern in Manchester – have made about $115,000 to $200,000 since being installed in the fall.

Catering Manager Christina Langley of Alan’s restaurant in Boscawen said she thinks keno could be a boon for business in the area – especially since the game isn’t yet available anywhere nearby.

“You can’t play in Concord, so it’s either drive all the way to Manchester or Franklin, or come here to Boscawen,” Langley said. “It really seems like a no-brainer.”

Alan’s already has a lottery scratch ticket machine in its lounge area that is popular, Langley said. “Keno 603” would also go somewhere in that space.

“It would bring people in and make them stay longer,” she said.

Langley said she’s been posting on the restaurant’s Facebook page for two months to try to gauge interest. She said most of the feedback she’s seen has been positive.

“Most people give us thumbs-up, most people give us high-fives and say, ‘Yes, it will be good for the town, we want it,’ ” she said.

The only challenge, Langley said, will be making sure residents remember to vote. Alan’s put a note up reading, “Vote Yes for Keno 603” on its electronic billboard reminding passers-by to go to town hall on March 13.

Residents in Bow will also be voting on keno this month. The town has only one restaurant that meets requirements for keno – the Chinese restaurant Chen Yang Li.

Requirements of the game are that it be placed in “pouring establishment” – a business or social club that sells liquor – and that it be placed in a lounge or bar area where minors can’t access it.

Manager Raymond Tan said the lottery commission helped him create a petition to put keno on the ballot in Bow, which garnered more than the required 25 signatures.

“We have a lot of traffic with (Interstate) 89, so I think quite a few people will stop by,” Tan said.

Other business owners are hoping keno will pass with an eye on the future.

Bill Leombruno Sr., owner of Loudon Country Club, said keno is something he’d be interested in pursuing, if he can rework the club’s restaurant layout to make sure the game wouldn’t be accessible to minors.

“We’d love to have it,” Leombruno said. “Unfortunately, our space just isn’t set up for that right now.”

Canavaugh said he’s heard from a lot of customers who will be looking forward to keno if it passes in Pembroke.

“The Lottery Commission was so enthusiastic,” he said. “They told us: ‘If it passes on the 13th, you’ll be the first place we’ll stop.’ They were asking how early they could get in to install it.”

(Leah Willingham can be reached at 369-3322, lwillingham@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @LeahMWillingham.)