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N.H. House to vote on electronic Keno, poker rules

New Hampshire lawmakers are considering whether to allow electronic Keno games to be played in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted, 14-5, this fall to endorse the idea as a means to raise an estimated $9 million annually if the game is offered at 250 sites. The Lottery Commission said some of the money will be from New Hampshire residents staying home to play rather than driving across the border to Massachusetts.

In Keno, players select numbers for each game from a field of 80 numbers. A computer randomly selects 20 winning numbers in frequently scheduled drawings.

The game would be offered from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. No one under age 18 could play.

Opponents argue the damage to communities with the video machines outweighs the revenue to the state.

“In the search for easy money, there is always a cost. Since there is no option for towns or cities to prohibit Keno in their communities, Keno could be located in any venue which serves alcohol,” state Rep. Mary Cooney said in a message to the House.

Cooney said lottery officials estimate $175,000 worth of tickets will be sold annually, which is money that will be taken out of the local economy. She said the gambling will also damage New Hampshire’s image.

State Rep. Patrick Abrami urged House members to approve the bill to raise money for education and provide support for research, prevention and treatment for problem gamblers.

Supporters argue Keno is a different product than the video slot machines the House has consistently refused to legalize, most recently when it killed a Senate bill this spring that would have allowed a casino to be licensed.

The committee also unanimously endorsed another bill that legalizes home poker games as long as no admission fee is charged, no profit or rake is taken, odds don’t favor any player, the games aren’t advertised and there isn’t a house “bank.”

The House votes on both bills in January.

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