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Keno in NH: Seven communities say yes; three reject it

New Hampshire Union Leader

November 07. 2017 10:58PM
 (Wikipedia/Santeri Viinamki)

The Republican-led Legislature voted overwhelmingly to legalize Keno as a local option, but it met with mixed results in city voting across the state Tuesday.

Seven communities voted to allow bar and restaurant owners to have the game if they choose to; three cities rejected it.

The bingo-like betting game to support full-day public kindergarten won biggest in Berlin, Manchester and Claremont.

In Berlin, Keno got 72 percent of the vote, 1,063 in favor compared to 407 against.

Voters approved it in Claremont by a 2-1 margin, 866 to 440.

In Manchester, the approval vote was also large, a 62-to-38 percent split — 13,284 to 8,304.

Voters in Nashua, the state’s second-largest city, approved Keno by a more narrow margin, 55-to-45 percent — 5,617 for the game and 4,557 against it.

In the Lakes Region city of Laconia, it won out by a 54-to-46 percent margin. The final count was 713 for to 606 against.

Somersworth voters endorsed it 52-to-48 percent with 420 for Keno, 391 were against it.

Meanwhile on both the Vermont and Maine borders as well as in the central part of the state, Keno lost.

According to unofficial returns, Keno was rejected in Concord, Dover, Rochester and Keene.

In Democratically dominated Concord, voters soundly turned it down, 2,171 to 1,625.

The same was true in Keene, another Democratic stronghold, with voters in all five wards rejecting it — most by a 2-1 margin.

In Dover the results were also negative but more competitive, 57-to-43 percent. Opponents to Keno outnumbered supporters, 1,317 to 1,007.

“I’m surprised that the Keno didn’t pass. I know a lot of people were against it, but it was funding for full-day kindergarten,” said Dover Mayor Karen Weston.

In Rochester, there could be a recount as the question passed by one vote, 1,036 in favor to 1,035 against.

The Rochester city clerk's office originally said the game failed, but discovered two numbers had been transposed, which led to the erroneous early unofficial results.

Voters in Franklin approved the game during an earlier special election.

City councilors in Lebanon and Portsmouth voted against putting the question to voters.

Proceeds from Keno will be used to support some of the costs for full-day kindergarten throughout the state. Cities and towns will be eligible for funding whether or not they approve Keno.

Money that is bet in any community with Keno does not stay there; it is first sent to the state to support to kindergarten aid.

State officials estimate in the first full year of operation, Keno will generate $8.5 million.

As Keno brings in more money in the future, the state per-pupil grant could rise up to $1,800 per student.

Keno can only be played in restaurants and bars with a liquor license.

The hosts of these games get an 8 percent commission on how much is waged on Keno each day.

Observers liken Keno to an electronic form of bingo.

Bettors pick up to 12 numbers from a card that has 80 on them and decides how much they’d like to bet per number up to $25 apiece. Every five minutes, the state randomly draws 20 “winners.”

Those playing the game win based on how many “correct” numbers they’ve chosen.

“I like it, because I would like to play it occasionally; it is mindless fun, the state needs revenue, and this is a voluntarily paid tax,” said Joseh Mirzoeff of Keene.

But Mohammad A. Saleh, an aerospace engineer from Keene, said it’s not worth the social cost: “All are for new revenue, but not by adding new vice that does not exist. This will impact the lower income group disproportionately who are already struggling.”

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