CONCORD — State lottery officials said they were pleased with the early returns of Keno votes at town meetings with 13 of 16 communities giving the thumbs up for bars and restaurants to offer the electronic-style bingo game.
Voters from Kingston along the border with Massachusetts to Whitefield in the Great North Woods endorsed warrant articles giving the go-ahead any community must provide to offer the Keno 603 game the New Hampshire State Lottery manages across the state.
On the flip side, voters in Wolfeboro, Rindge and Barrington rejected it Tuesday.
Lottery Executive Director Charlie McIntyre said these positive returns represent nearly half the 34 towns that will be weighing in on this question during town meetings this week as well as some towns that hold ballot votes in early April.
“More and more businesses, patrons and residents are drawn to the excitement offered by the game and the benefits it provides to fund kindergarten,” McIntyre said in a statement.
The list of towns known to have voted yes Tuesday were Andover, Allenstown, East Kingston, Epsom, Fitzwilliam, Goffstown, Kingston, Litchfield, Londonderry, Northwood, Swanzey, Whitefield and Woodstock.
In many communities the outcome was lopsided.
Voters in Litchfield endorsed it by a wide margin, 1,240-476.
Wolfeboro overwhelmingly rejected it, 845-393.
The vote was very close in Londonderry where it passed by only eight votes (1,357-1,349) and in Andover it cleared by two ballots (47-45).
Keno supporters were hoping to make breakthroughs this year in Lakes Region communities after voters had rejected in in past years.
Voters in Moultonborough, Meredith and Bridgewater were also being asked the question.
Since December 2017, supporters of Keno have dealt with critics who point out state profits from it have fallen well below the estimated $9 million a year it was expected to generate.
It was hoped this much profit would approach the $1,100-per-pupil grants that school districts receive if they offer full-day kindergarten.
Communities get those grants whether Keno is legal in their town or not.
At present, the game is only expected to bring in about $5.5 million for this budget year ending this June 30.
The State Senate votes today on legislation to sever any link between Keno and full-day public kindergarten and instead divert the profit to a new fund that would support local school construction projects.
McIntyre has maintained if enough towns approve the game this spring the state could next year reach that $9 million goal.
Lottery officials were also planning to lobby officials in five cities to put Keno on their ballots this November.
Lebanon city officials have already voted against having residents decide the matter this year.
The other cities that do not have Keno are Portsmouth, Keene, Concord, Rochester and Dover.
During Keno, players pick from one to 12 numbers, and every five minutes a computer randomly generates and displays 20 winning numbers from 1 to 80 on a television monitor. A player may place a wager from $1 to $25 per game.
Gambling opponents maintain the game can be too addicting because compulsive bettors can quickly rack up significant losses if they’re playing it for several hours.