September 05. 2017 11:57PM

Portsmouth says no to Keno, while Rochester puts it on November ballot

Union Leader Correspondent

Charles McIntyre, the executive director of the New Hampshire Lottery Commission, answered questions for the city council in Portsmouth before they voted against allowing Keno on the fall ballot. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)

PORTSMOUTH — Officials in Portsmouth voted against putting Keno on the fall ballot Tuesday night, while the rapid numbers game made the ballot in Rochester.

After a public hearing where no residents or business owners spoke, the executive director of the New Hampshire Lottery Commission answered a few questions for Portsmouth city council members.

Mayor Jack Blalock, who owns Old Ferry Landing, asked Charles McIntyre why he has received solicitation from the Lottery Commission about Keno when they had not even decided if the gambling game should be allowed on the local ballot.

Blalock called the solicitation from the Lottery Commission offensive and premature.

Councilor Brad Lown made the motion to put Keno on the ballot, saying it is a chance for tax relief for residents, but other council members expressed their opinion that allowing Keno in Portsmouth is a "horrible idea."

"There's zero interest. I don't know why we're doing this at all," Councilor Joshua Cyr said. "We haven't heard anyone asking for it."

Councilors pointed out that members of the restaurant community had just been at the meeting to talk about the city's food licensing and regulations, and all of those business owners left.

"They walked out. Nobody wants this," Councilor Nancy Pearson said.

Council members voted 7-2 against putting Keno on the ballot.

In Rochester, council members voted 12-1 to put Keno on the fall ballot in their city. Two people spoke out against the gambling game during the City Council's first public hearing last month. There will be another public hearing in October for Rochester residents.

Keno is a rapid-number game that state officials say will help fund full-day kindergarten throughout the state. Numbers are drawn every five minutes, and people can choose how much they gamble.

Officials from the state's Lottery Commission say that under a new law recently signed by Gov. Chris Sununu, $1,100 is guaranteed per student each year. That could increase to $1,800.

The hope is to raise $43 million in revenue, according to lottery officials.

Nashua officials are also considering Keno, and so far voters in Manchester, Concord, Dover, Franklin, Berlin and Claremont will have the opportunity to vote on whether they will allow Keno in their cities.