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N.H. Lottery asks Concord to give Keno another shot

  • Patrons play Keno 603 at JJ's Woodfired Pizza and Tavern in Franklin on Friday, Dec. 15, 2017, the opening day for the lottery game in New Hampshire. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

Monitor staff
Published: 7/9/2019 11:15:20 AM

Nearly two years after Keno received a sound defeat in Concord, the New Hampshire Lottery Commission is hoping the Capital City will give the game another try. 

Commission executive director Charlie McIntyre asked councilors on Monday night to consider asking city voters again on November’s ballot whether the “Keno603” game should be allowed in Concord.

Concord voters rejected Keno in a 2,249 to 1,723 vote and was one of the few cities to deny the game in 2017. Dover shot it down 1,509 to 1,164 and Keene denied it 1,450 to 820. In Rochester, the measure failed by a single vote.

In some cities, like Portsmouth, the question never made it to the ballot. Keno is currently approved in 84 municipalities across the state and a portion of the proceeds are used to pay for full-day kindergarten in the state.

The commission wants to see the game – and revenues – grow.

“As you folks know, if the citizens say no, we’ll move on and be back in two years,” McIntyre said. 

At least one city councilor seemed skeptical.

“If I understand this correctly, director, you’re going to come back to us every two years to put this back on that ballot, and every two years voters of this city vote no, you’re going to come back to us?” asked At-Large Councilor Byron Champlin.

“I have no plans in two years, I don’t know what I’m doing next weekend,” McIntyre replied. “But we’ll be here incessantly – many legislative initiatives honestly take a number of years before they’re approved.”

Take, for example, the lottery, which McIntrye said went up for a vote 10 times before it was approved in 1963.

“Sometimes good ideas take a while to sit,” he added. 

McIntyre sang the praises of the game from a business perspective, saying establishments that allow it see more spending on food and drink items, usually in the early afternoon. He said the game pulled in $24 million in revenue last fiscal year and is expected to generate $36 million this year. 

But that figure isn’t inclusive of expenses like retailer incentives, administration and prize payouts, which take a significant chunk out of the bottom line. A Monitor report in February found Keno revenues were estimated to be lower than the $11 million that was necessary to cover the minimum additional adequacy for full-day kindergarten under the “kenogarten” bill, SB 191. Communities like Concord that rejected Keno still get kindergarten revenues generated by the game.

State law allows for Keno to get on city ballots in two ways: either the legislative body elects to put it there or through citizen petition. Public records show McIntyre has also asked Keene to reconsider the question. 

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)

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