EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 26, 2013

House expected to OK keno study

Sponsor says N.H. losing millions to the Bay State

By John Toole
jtoole@eagletribune.com

---- — The New Hampshire House appears ready to approve a keno study.

The House Ways and Means Committee is recommending passage of House Bill 520 during tomorrow’s session at the Statehouse.

The committee recommendation came on a strong, 17-1 vote.

It is on the House’s consent calendar, meaning little opposition is expected and the bill should pass on a voice vote unless it’s challenged from the floor.

“Keno is a form of gambling which is quite different from the lottery, charitable gambling and casino gambling,” Rep. David Hess, R-Hooksett, told the House in a written report from the committee. “It has not been independently analyzed and studied by any state committee or commission in recent history, if at all.”

Keno is a game of chance in which players pick a series of numbers and match them against computer-generated “winning” numbers.

In Massachusetts, players bet throughout the day. They select one to 12 numbers, while the computer picks 20 different numbers between one and 80.

Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry, sponsored the bill.

He sees keno as a way to raise money to fund education.

Baldasaro had drafted an amendment that would permit keno in New Hampshire right away, but Hess said the House panel preferred a study first.

Baldasaro said he expects the House will approve the study, though someone might question it during tomorrow’s session because it involves gaming expansion.

He said he anticipates another gaming proposal, a Senate bill that Gov. Maggie Hassan is supporting, will not be so lucky should it come to the House as expected this spring.

Senate Bill 152, pushed by Sens. Chuck Morse, R-Salem, and Jim Rausch, R-Derry, provides for $80 million in revenue in the upcoming budget from licensing a casino in New Hampshire.

“One gambling casino is not going to pass,” Baldasaro said. “That’s a monopoly, just one.”

Baldasaro is among gaming expansion proponents who want to see the Legislature authorize multiple casinos, something the governor has said she opposes.

He said New Hampshire is losing millions of dollars to Massachusetts because keno players can go there to bet, but not in their home state.

Baldasaro’s objection to keno in Massachusetts is that keno is allowed at neighborhood stores.

“I want it to go into bars and restaurants, not seven-day stores,” Baldasaro said earlier this year.

He also would let veterans’ organizations like the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars have keno in their local posts.

The keno study is supported by the Lottery Commission, Hess said in his report to the House.

The bill calls for the study, if approved by the Legislature, to be completed this fall.