Keyed up for keno: Franklin becomes first N.H. municipality to approve gambling game 

  • Bonnie Richardson, shown tending bar at VFW Post 1698 in Franklin on Wednesday, discusses the possibility of keno coming to the post. Franklin became the first municipality in the state to approve keno after Tuesday’s election. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Sally Bussiere, president of the nonprofit Thrift Clothes Closet on Main Street in Franklin, talks about the thought of keno coming to the city. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Manager Holly Frederick of JJ’s Woodfired Pizza in Franklin said Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, that her employer is happy keno is coming to the city. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Bonnie Richardson who works VFW Post 1698 in Franklin discusses the thought of keno possibly coming to the Post on October 4, 2107. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Manager Holly Frederick of JJ’s Wood Fired Pizza in Franklin says her boss is happy the keno is coming to Franklin. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Thursday, October 05, 2017

Franklin VFW bartender Bonnie Richardson has no doubt she’ll be seeing keno at her workplace soon.

“We’re getting it,” she said Wednesday from behind the bar. “There’s no one in here I’ve heard that doesn’t want it. It’s all positivity.”

Franklin became the first municipality in the state to approve the gambling game keno after a citywide election on Tuesday. The game passed the city’s three wards with about 60 percent of the vote.

New Hampshire Lottery officials said last August that eight locations in Franklin have liquor licenses that qualified them to allow keno, a game similar to an electronic form of bingo. Now it’s up to vendors who qualify to make arrangements with the state to get keno machines installed, which could be in place as early as December.

Richardson said the governing body of the VFW will officially decide whether to apply to get keno at its Oct. 18. meeting. But she said she doesn’t anticipate any problems.

“It’s already here,” she said. “It just has to walk through the door.”

Most of the locations that qualify have already received informational postcards from the state detailing their options.

JJ’s Woodfired Pizza is one of them. Owner Jim Gale said he’s already let the state know he wants to participate.

“I told them I’m willing to be a test mule, if they need it,” Gale said. “We’re very excited.”

The owners of establishments applying for keno will be subject to a background check and will have to pay an annual $500 licensing fee, according to the state lottery commission.

These locations will keep 8 percent of every dollar spent on the KENO 603 game, according to the Lottery Commission. They can also earn bonuses – capped at $75,000 – for selling a KENO 603 prize of $10,000 and greater.

The idea of keno was pitched as a way to fund statewide full-day kindergarten. The state projects that keno could bring in $9 million in revenue.

State lawmakers legalized keno last year and left the decision to allow the game up to each municipality’s residents or elected officials. Cities and towns must actively approve keno in order for the game to be played within their borders, but no school’s kindergarten funding is contingent on the municipality’s participation.

Starting next school year, every school with a full-day program is set to receive an extra $1,100 per kindergartner. If keno revenues exceed expectations, however, schools statewide may receive more.

The state lottery’s director of marketing, Maura McCann, said none of the eight Franklin establishments had signed up for keno Tuesday and she wouldn’t reveal which businesses and social clubs qualify. Once applications are processed, she said the commission will look to install the first games by mid-December.

The news drew mixed reactions from Franklin residents.

Sally Bussiere, who was volunteering at the nonprofit Thrift Clothes Closet on Wednesday, said she doesn’t see how keno could hurt the city.

“We already have some forms of gambling in the state – we have scratch tickets, powerball – those have brought revenue to the state,” she said.

Mary Foley said she didn’t vote for keno because she didn’t want to “add fuel to the fire.”

“I’ve seen too many people with addictions; it just seems like another one,” she said. “It just seems like there should be other ways to support education, rather than by gambling and cigarettes and booze.”

At JJ’s pizzeria, customer Tom O’Connor said he is a keno enthusiast who regularly travels to Massachusetts to play the game.

“I think it’s good,” O’Connor said. “And if it’s going to help schools, why not?”

Franklin was just the first municipality in New Hampshire to vote on the keno game. Ten more communities will make a decision on keno in elections on Nov. 7.