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‘Referendum is the purest form of democracy’ – Concord voters to reconsider Keno603

  • The Draft on South Main Street in Concord on Saturday, October 20, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Cheers Geoff Forester

  • Concord voters will see “Keno603” back on the ballot during the November city elections. Monitor file

Monitor staff
Published: 9/10/2019 4:51:41 PM

Todd and Wendy Roy want Keno to come to Concord because they think it will help bring a lot more traffic to their downtown restaurant.

The Roys, who own Cheers Bar & Grille, compare Keno to other games they offer throughout the week to customers: cribbage, music bingo and trivia.

“People work hard all day, they can come over, have a drink or have coffee, whatever it is, and play. You don’t have to, it’s up to you,” Todd Roy said. “We’re not trying to promote drunks or nothing like that.”

Todd Roy said they were disappointed when Concord voters rejected the New Hampshire Lottery-sponsored “Keno 603” in 2017. Keno failed in Concord in a 2,249 to 1,723 vote.

The Roys, along with other Concord business owners, told the City Council Monday night they think people were unaware of what Keno was two years ago. Now that residents have had the chance to see how it’s played out in other towns and cities in the state, Roy asked the council to give residents a second chance.

“I’m hoping you guys will turn around and let the people of Concord decide the vote,” he said. “I know it’s been a sore subject, but that’s what I’m asking.”

After some back and forth conversation, the council decided through a voice vote to allow keno, along with sports betting, to be placed on November’s ballot.

“State law is clear that every two years, this issue may come before the city council for consideration. Referendum really is the purest form of democracy we have, and I think it would be an insult to voters not to offer them that opportunity,” at-large councilor Fred Keach said.

“Last time around when this was on the ballot, residents didn’t have a concept of how this was going to play out because Keno didn’t exist,” at-large councilor Amanda Grady Sexton said. “Some may feel that some concerns that they had did not come to fruition and other people may believe that they didn’t have concerns and now that they’ve seen Keno in action, they might have problems with it.”

“Anytime there’s an opportunity to allow residents to vote on the ballot, I will absolutely vote to support it,” Grady Sexton added.

However, two councilors, Byron Champlin and Rob Werner, expressed concerns.

“We’ve heard people say that the people should have an opportunity to vote on this, and I sincerely feel that people had an opportunity to vote on this once and decided that they didn’t want Keno in Concord,” Champlin said. “And now, folks are second-guessing those voters.”

“I’m deeply concerned that we continuously see gambling sticking its nose further and further under the tent,” Champlin added. “We don’t call it gambling anymore – it’s gaming, it’s like Parcheesi or it’s like we play children’s games like Trivial Pursuit ... gambling can hurt, not only the person who gambles, but their family, and the people around them.”

Werner said he sees contradictions in the way state and federal lawmakers approach gambling legislation.

“At the same time that these initiatives are authorized, there are things like Council for Responsible Gambling thus established, with the expectation that we’re going to need those services, that we’re going to need treatment for people,” he said. “Why are we doing this as a society, and allowing this, or promoting it, when at the same time we recognize that there will be issues and problems?”

Andy Sanborn, owner of The Draft Sports Bar & Grille, said it’s a matter of promoting economic development downtown. He said he’s losing customers to businesses less than five miles away because he doesn’t have Keno.

“You guys voted for this great project, you’ve done amazing things on Main Street, you talk on a regular basis about wanting more and more people to come to Concord and spend time in Concord and without having Keno, it is literally pushing people out,” Sanborn said.

He said he has at least one customer a day asking him why he doesn’t have Keno.

“It is the number one thing that people talk to me about, more so than even our food specials,” Sanborn said.

Carl Nolin, a member of American Legion Post 21 in Concord, said having Keno will help support the community.

“I hope that Keno does get approved so we can use all the funding to return it to the community,” he said. “We don’t know how keno got away from concord, but it did and now we really need to bring it back.”

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