By John Toole
---- — A state lawmaker from Londonderry wants New Hampshire to join Massachusetts in offering keno lottery games.
Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry, said revenues would help pay for public schools.
He said the state is now losing millions of dollars to neighboring Massachusetts, which does have keno.
“That could fill the hole on education as a revenue source,” Baldasaro said.
But he disagrees with Massachusetts’ philosophy of allowing keno in neighborhood stores.
“I want it to go into bars and restaurants, not seven-day stores,” Baldasaro said.
Keno would help bring customers to bars and restaurants, putting people to work, he said, and indirectly boosting state rooms-and-meals tax revenue, too.
“It’s a win-win,” Baldasarto said. “It’s a jobs bill.”
He also would let veterans’ organizations like the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars have keno in their post halls.
“They would all love to have it,” Baldasaro said.
His proposal, House Bill 520, wouldn’t commit the state to implementing keno right away. It only asks for a committee to study the issue, and report to the governor and Legislature by Nov. 1.
He has the backing of other Southern New Hampshire lawmakers, including Reps. Mary Griffin, R-Windham, and Ken Weyler, R-Kingston.
The New Hampshire Lottery Commission is reviewing Baldasaro’s proposal, but hasn’t taken a position yet, deputy director Lynda Plante said.
Lottery director Charlie McIntyre was unavailable yesterday, but in the past has estimated as much as $90 million of Massachusetts gaming revenue is coming from New Hampshire players, with a big part of that being keno.
Keno is a game of chance where players pick a series of numbers and match them against computer-generated “winning” numbers.
In Massachusetts, players can bet throughout the day. Players select one to 12 numbers, while the computer picks 20 different numbers between one and 80.
Massachusetts has the game in stores, bars and veteran clubs. The state ranks first in the nation for keno revenues at $790 million. It is the second biggest revenue generator among Massachusetts games, ranking behind the $3.2 billion for instant lottery tickets.
Fourteen states have keno, including Delaware which started play last week. Pennsylvania is debating keno. Massachusetts is the only New England state with keno.
Baldasaro’s bill will be heard Feb. 7 by the House Ways and Means Committee.