Keno 603 launch met with enthusiasm in NH

New Hampshire Union Leader
Union Leader Correspondent
December 15. 2017 10:18PM
From right, Pat Mack, Kevin Abood and Dave Brenner buy Keno tickets at Billy's Sports Bar in Manchester on Friday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

The normal distractions at noontime watering holes — nonstop sports news, social media feeds, run-of-the-mill barstool banter — was widely ignored Friday as lottery officials turned on the switch for Keno 603 in several New Hampshire cities.

Lunchtime crowds took in the game with enthusiasm. At Billy’s Sports Bar and Grill in Manchester, lines of three and four players formed at times in front of the lone Keno machine, located just inside the front door.

Two strategically placed monitors allowed just about everyone in the bar to catch a field of 20 numbers, which started at 11 a.m. and is expected to change every five minutes until the 11 p.m. Keno closing time.

“I said I gotta go on the first day, just to place a bet,” said Hooksett-resident Steve Chandler, who was sitting at Billy’s. “It’s entertaining, and you don’t have to get involved with a lot of money.”

He said he spent $5 and was able to play five different draws. A draw refers to the 20 numbers that are drawn every five minutes. A ticket holder can try to match as many as 12 numbers, and the more numbers that are matched, the higher the winnings.

Chandler said he won $2 in the five draws, making his first foray into Keno 603 a $3 loss. Well worth the excitement, he said.

Keno 603 launched in more than 40 locations in six New Hampshire communities, including Manchester and Nashua. Franklin, Laconia, Somersworth, Berlin and Claremont have also approved Keno.

“I’ve been getting calls. People are all excited about it,” said Billy Laberge, owner of Billy’s. “I even opened early today. People were here at 11 o’clock.”

In Nashua, 12 establishments offer Keno.

“We just had a $200 winner — it is really exciting,” said Jackie Pierce, an employee at Slade’s Food and Spirits on West Hollis Street. “The customers are absolutely ecstatic. They keep comparing it to the Massachusetts Keno game, but this is a little different so we are all learning together.”

Pierce joked that she will be an expert at Keno by the end of the day on Friday.

In fact, the lottery had marketing reps at most establishments, giving explanations about the game to customers.

Most people want an explanation for how the game works, said Erica Brisson, a lottery marketing coordinator at Salona Bar & Grill in Manchester. “The other question is what are the odds,” Brisson said.

The odds are printed on the back of the ticket that players fill out.

At Salona, nearly all of the dozen lunch-time diners had a ticket in front of them. “We don’t really have a clue,” said Monica Poulin, who stopped in for lunch and had co-worker Joan Fisher buy her a ticket.

Amy Rogowicz had a different take. “I’m a gambling junky. This is perfect for me.”

Laberge couldn’t be happier on Friday. He noted he gets 8 cents of every $1 spent on Keno at his establishment. He also expects it will keep cutomers local. On Sundays, some Manchester-area regulars eat brunch at his place then head to a Massachusetts sports bar to watch football and play Keno, he said.

Many of those customers are now expected to stay local. As an added bonus, Laberge’s fiance, Tia Balliro, won $60 on a $2 bet. “It’s exciting; it’s Christmas,” she said.

Dave Brenner and several co-workers from Dyn Inc. crowded into a couple of tables at Billy’s. All had tickets and were looking at the monitor. Brenner paid $10 to play five draws.

“It keeps most people off their phones and looking at a monitor,” Brenner said. “I’m not looking to win the lottery on these things. It’s just a little fun.”

In Nashua, Slade’s Food and Spirits installed a window sign advertising the Keno game, and Pierce said it attracted about 15 people by mid-afternoon on Friday.

“People are coming in off the streets to try it out, and they are sticking around,” she added.

At Nashua’s Fody’s Great American Tavern, bar owner Paul Foden said he couldn’t resist trying the game himself.

“I was the first one to play here and I won $32 the first time. Works for me,” said Foden. “I think that in general, there is a stigma about Keno being for dive bars, but I kind of hope and think that people have graduated from that thought process in a lot of ways. We hope customers have fun with it.”

At Nashua’s Tilted Kilt, 345 Amherst St., customers are thrilled about the new Keno, according to Mike Lamonday, general manager. He said there has been a steady stream of guests trying out the game — some of them for the first time.

“A couple of people have just been sitting here since noon and playing,” he said three hours later. “I definitely think this is going to help our business.”

EntertainmentBusinessHuman InterestTourismGeneral NewsNew HampshireManchesterNashuaState Government

Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Facebook Follow our RSS feed
Union Leader app for Apple iPad or Android *
Click to download from Apple Apps StoreClick to download from Android Marketplace
* e-Edition subscription required