By John Toole
---- — CONCORD — New Hampshire took a step yesterday toward joining Massachusetts among states offering keno.
House Bill 520, establishing a legislative study, received approval as expected on a voice vote in the House.
“I’m very pleased,” said Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry, the bill’s prime sponsor. “This is an opportunity to do a study and put a proposal forward next year.”
Baldasaro said keno could bring in $50 million to $60 million a year for education in New Hampshire.
The bill calls for a special legislative panel to issue a report by Nov. 1 on whether to establish keno and how to do it. It now moves to the Senate.
The Lottery Commission supports doing a keno study.
Keno, a game of chance, lets 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.
“Players are eating and drinking in restaurants and gassing up across the border,” Baldasaro said. “A lot of money is being lost to Massachusetts.”
While Baldasaro wants New Hampshire to permit keno, he is opposed to the Massachusetts system that lets players bet at neighborhood stores. He would limit keno in the Granite State to restaurants, bars and veterans clubs.
The House Ways and Means Committee recommended a study on a 17-1 vote. Baldasaro had drafted an amendment, which didn’t go before the full House, that would have authorized the state to establish keno without a study.
The committee concluded the state should first study the issue.
“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 on behalf of the Ways and Means Committee.
“It has not been independently analyzed and studied by any state committee or commission in recent history, if at all,” Hess said.
Baldasaro’s bill provides for a five-member legislative study committee, three appointed by the House speaker and two by the president of the Senate.