Yvette Imhof and Dave Henrick of the 405 Pub and Grill and Jennifer Rouse from the New Hampshire Lottery prepare for Keno Friday. (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — After 16 hours of plowing snow, Scot Stebbins was ready for some rest and relaxation, so he was at the 405 Pub & Grill at 11 a.m. Friday and became the first customer to play Keno in the city.
The gambling game went live simultaneously at about 40 establishments around the state.
“It's fun to win money,” Stebbins said. “That's what gambling is all about. Once you win, then you start betting bigger.”
A new round of the numbers game occurs every five minutes, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Players win if the numbers they select match those generated randomly and displayed on television screens.
Stebbins, who was nursing a sore back after all that plowing, came up empty in the initial rounds.
“I need a new ticket,” he said. “There goes another $8.”
The minimum bet per draw is $1. The max is $25.
How it works
Dave Henrick, owner of the restaurant, showed how it was done.
A player can use a self-service machine to select numbers and specify the size of the bet. Henrick slipped a $1 bill into the machine and picked four numbers, asking people nearby to help him with the selections.
The machine issued a game ticket showing his numbers and the size of his bet.
“If we win, we're splitting,” Henrick said. “We're gonna get it back big. We're going to win big. Wouldn't that be great? That would be a good story, better than any you could write.”
He yelled over to his customer.
“Did you win yet, Scot? No? Keep playing.”
Henrick said the game is perfect for the 405 Pub & Grill, where there are a lot of regulars, nightly food specials and a friendly atmosphere. He thinks customers playing the game will stay a little longer and buy more food and drink.
He earns an 8 percent commission for every dollar played. He is also now offering other lottery products, on which he will receive a 5 percent commission.
Henrick is from Massachusetts, which has long offered keno.
“It's a big social thing,” he said. “People go out to restaurants or bars, and everybody in a party picks a number. Somebody wins and says, 'I'll buy another round of drinks.' Or, they split the money up.
“It's like a sofa game. It keeps your attention while you're having dinner. And it goes to a good cause, education.”
Lottery officials say keno sales of $43.7 million are expected, with $8.5 million net revenue earmarked for full-day kindergarten.
It could lead to job growth in some restaurants.
Henrick said he plans to add a few part-time employees to help with the game.
Customers not wishing to use the self-service machine can fill out a slip with their numbers and give it to an employee who will enter the numbers and return with a game ticket.
If the ticket is a winner, the customer can immediately collect up to $599. Those lucky enough to win higher amounts would pick up their winnings at lottery headquarters in Concord.
The keno equipment, including three large television screens for customers to monitor the game, was installed at the 405 Pub & Grill last Saturday.
Jennifer Rouse, a sales representative for the game, said the rollout went smoothly.
Also offering the game in Laconia are Hector’s Fine Food & Spirits, the Brick Front Restaurant-Lounge and the local VFW chapter. Establishments that serve alcohol are eligible to host the game. In Laconia, there are about 50 such businesses.
The new form of gambling is occurring because of a bill passed by the Legislature this year. It allows keno in cities and towns if approved by local voters. The City Council decided to put it to a vote of the people and on Nov. 7 voters approved the game.
Henrick said visitors to the area will want to play.
”We're in a vacation area and a lot of people from Massachusetts come up here,” he said. “They'll really enjoy it.
“It will help our business and help the experience here at the 405, not just having a great meal and having fun but also being able to play keno.”
When he was done explaining the positives, he showed how a player who hasn't been watching the winning numbers on the screen can find out if he is a winner. The player places the barcode of the ticket under a scanner to get the verdict.
The return on his $1 wager? Zero.
Scot Stebbins cashes in a $2 winning ticket with Jennifer Rouse of NH Lottery at the 405 Pub and Grill on Friday. He was their first player after Keno 603 went live. (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)