Keno likely for city ballot

Almost 50 city businesses could host the game


LACONIA — Dozens of restaurants in the city could qualify for offering keno if local voters approve the game, a spokeswoman for the New Hampshire Lottery told the City Council on Monday night.
The council will consider on Aug. 28 whether to place a measure on the Nov. 7 ballot to offer the game locally as allowed under a measure passed by the Legislature this year.
Net revenue for the game would go toward funding full-day kindergarten, which is already offered in Laconia public schools. If passed locally, it’s possible some of the money now spent on full-day kindergarten in the city could go toward other school district needs.
Keno-generated money for full-day kindergarten will be offered to school districts statewide, whether or not keno is permitted in a certain town or city.
Dr. Brendan Minnihan, superintendent of the Laconia School District, said additional funds would be helpful.
“I would be in favor of additional funding for kindergarten and this is the method the Legislature has chosen, so it will at least potentially provide more funding,” he said.
In her presentation to the council, Kelley-Jaye Cleland, director of sales and product development for the lottery, said there are nearly 50 establishments in the city that can legally serve alcohol, which is a requirement for offering the game.
She said Massachusetts takes in $900 million a year in its keno game, with 2.5 percent of the money coming from New Hampshire residents.
“The goal is to get that money back,” she said. “We hope to earn back that and more, depending on what cities and towns pass this.”
Towns will decide whether to offer the game during the annual meeting process in the spring.
Keno is a numbers game. Players bet a number on one to 12 spots on a keno slip. They place the slip and money in a machine that will then spit out their keno card. Anywhere from $1 to $25 can be spent on a single card.
Players win if their numbers match those generated randomly and displayed on a screen at the establishment offering the game. New number displays will be provided every five minutes between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m.
Cleland said establishments offering Keno have found people spend more on food and beverages while playing the game.
The restaurants also receive an 8 percent commission on sales.
“We really try to work with retailers to make it a win-win for them and for us as well,” she said.
Lottery spokesman Maura McCann said the lottery provides $25,000 a year to support efforts to help people with gambling problems. Also, 1 percent of revenue from keno is to go to the Department of Health and Human Services to help those with gambling problems.
She said keno sales of $43.7 million are expected, with $8.5 million net revenue earmarked for full-day kindergarten. The money would be available beginning with the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2018.
McCann said that since 1964, the New Hampshire Lottery has provided more than $1.7 billion in aid to public education throughout New Hampshire.