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Voters deciding whether to place a bet on Keno 603

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 14. 2018 2:27AM

Voters in more than 75 towns across the state went to the polls Tuesday to decide if they wanted to allow Keno 603 at bars and restaurants within their borders.

Of 13 towns that reported their results by 10 p.m. on Tuesday, 11 gave the OK.

Many of the outcomes were close. Candia voters rejected it by only three, 290-287, while Newmarket voters narrowly endorsed it, 349-331.

Likewise, the approval votes were close in Bow (495-478), Pittsfield (265-228) and in Epping (461-388).

The proposition failed more decisively in Barrington (546-427 against) but it passed solidly in Hooksett (479-306), Raymond (598-308) and Belmont (286-123).

Voters in Auburn, Hudson, Danville and Newton also approved Keno, though the final numbers were not available.

The number of communities voting Tuesday could have increased by 600 the number of locations to offer the fast-paced game that’s likened to an electronic form of bingo.

Seven cities have approved Keno and through its first 10 weeks the game had surpassed the $2 million sales mark that was above expectations.

“Along with offering players a fun and exciting new game, Keno 603 also delivers critical funding for full-day kindergarten in New Hampshire,” said Charles McIntyre, executive director of the New Hampshire Lottery that administers the game.

Voters in the cities of Portsmouth, Keene, Concord and Lebanon all rejected the game.

James Weaver, a Hudson resident running as a write-in candidate for the Board of Selectmen, said Keno is similar to scratch tickets and is a passive form of gambling.

“If you don’t want to partake in it you don’t have to,” he said. “It’s going to assist with funding for full-day kindergarten. The local businesses get to keep 8 percent of the Keno ticket price, so that helps local businesses.”

The 8 percent commission is the highest of any state in the country that offers Keno according to lottery officials.

In Boscawen, those working at Alan’s Restaurant had taken to social media to promote a vote in support of Keno. “I do know that whatever of the Keno money that is taken in that goes to schools is dispersed to all kindergartens. So Keno in Boscawen would help all kindergartens in NH, not just ours,” posted Christina Langley.

Due to the weather, the Bosawen moderator postponed the Keno and other local warrant article votes to a town meeting on March 24, officials said.

During a public hearing in Jaffrey last month, some residents said they feared Keno would produce more addicted gamblers and this could put a strain on the local welfare budget.

“We have people that go to those establishments ... and spend their money on other things that are not wise to spend their money on, and then they can’t pay their rent,” said resident Harvey Sawyer. “We wind up with the problem, we are supporting these people.”

Derry’s Marco Bonenfant, who voted at West Running Brook Middle School, called Keno a positive for businesses. “I think it will probably bring revenue to the town,” he said. “I think it’s a good thing.”

Starting next year, the state will use Keno revenues to increase funding for full-day kindergarten.

The state currently pays districts about $1,800 per kindergarten student in state aid, but a new law will have the state chipping in at least $1,100 more per student in a full-day kindergarten program beginning in 2019 from the revenue generated from Keno.

Union Leader Correspondents Chris Garofolo, Jason Schreiber and Ryan O’Connor contributed to this story.

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