Milford Selectmen say no to Keno

MILFORD – Keno will be on the town ballot this year, but not with the help of selectmen.

On Dec. 15, people in six cities started playing the bingo-like electronic game after New Hampshire’s kindergarten-Keno bill was signed into law last summer.

The New Hamshire Lottery Commission has been contacting town clerks, and last week Milford Clerk Joan Dargie asked selectmen to put a Keno article on the warrant to let voters make a decision on whether to allow restaurants and taverns to offer the game.

Milford has quite a few establishments that would be eligible, including the American Legion and VFW, she said, calling it a “no-brainer,” because it wouldn’t cost the town anything.

But selectman and state Sen. Gary Daniels said he’s had problems with the Senate bill that authorizes it, because it’s not open to everyone.

“The state is picking winners and losers,” he said, because businesses that don’t have licenses to pour liquor, can’t offer it.

Dargie said the game isn’t appropriate for small convenience stores or supermarkets, because it’s slow-moving, for “sitting down and having a drink with friends.”

Nashua is one of the six cities that last year voted to offer Keno, and Dargie said Milford could lose restaurant and tavern business to Nashua.

Retailers pay a $500 annual licensing fee and receive an 8 percent sales commission, as well as bonuses. The Lottery Commission provides training and equipment.

Legislation signed last year links full-day kindergarten, and the state Lottery Commission estimates that Keno 603, as they call it, will bring in about $9 million the first year.

The game must be approved in each town in order for it to be offered in establishments with valid pouring licenses.

Whether or not a town or city approves the game, under the new law, every school district will get the same share from Keno revenue, based on the number of children enrolled in full-day kindergarten.

Nashua, Manchester, Laconia, Franklin and Claremont are among the municipalities that have approved the measure. Dover and Concord rejected it, and the question did not make it onto the ballot in Portsmouth.

Dargie said she will submit a petition warrant article and already three-quarters of the town budget committee have signed it.

Under state law, Keno can be placed on the warrant by the Board of Selectmen or can be brought by petition of 25 registered voters in the town.

During each Keno game in New Hampshire, players choose from one to 12 numbers, and every five minutes a computer randomly generates and displays 20 winning numbers from 1 to 80 on a video monitor. A player may place a wager from $1 to $25 per game. The more numbers players match, the more they win.

Selectmen didn’t take a vote, but Mike Putnam indicated that a petition was a good idea, and there were only four board members at the Dec. 26 meeting.

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