Milford selects divided on Keno

MILFORD – Voters in March will decide the question of whether the town’s bars and restaurants will offer Keno, the bingo-like electronic game.

Legislation signed last year links Keno to full-day kindergarten funding, but school districts will be eligible for Keno funding whether or not they allow the game. The Milford district has kindergarten expansion on its warrant, and if it passes, the shcool district, and all towns and cities that offer all-day kindergarten, would receive $1,100 per child enrolled, added to the state adequate education grants of about $1,800 per kindergarten student.

The game must be approved in each town, or city, and earlier this month Milford selectmen said they expected a petition article to be submitted. There was a petition submitted, but then on Jan. 8, the board voted 3-2 in favor, with Gary Daniels and Mike Putnam dissenting.

Daniels, a state senator, said the game is unfair, because it is only allowed in establishments that have liquor-pouring licenses.

Other lawmakers contend it is unfair for another reason: The poorest people in the state will be paying for kindergarten in more affluent communities.

The game must be approved at the town meeting, and so far, at least seven New Hampshire cities have voted to allow it, including Nashua, Manchester, Berlin, Laconia, Franklin, Claremont and Somersworth.

Saying no were Concord, Dover and Keene. In Portsmouth and Lebanon, it didn’t make it onto the ballots.

In Rochester, after Keno passed by one vote in November, there was a recount that resulted in a tie, meaning it’s a no-go.

The state Lottery Commission has estimated that Keno will bring in about $9 million the first year. Establishments offering Keno need to pay $500 for an annual license fee and can keep about 8 percent of the proceeds.

Milford town clerk Joan Dargie told selectmen that Milford has quite a few places that would be eligible, calling it a “no-brainer,” because it wouldn’t cost the town anything, and Milford could lose restaurant and tavern business to Nashua establishments that offer the game.

The Keno question and other warrant articles will be discussed at the Milford Town Deliberative Session on Saturday. The meeting, in the town hall auditorium, begins at 9 a.m.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.

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