First it was casinos, then it was keno.
Lawmakers’ efforts to bolster New Hampshire’s economy with much-needed revenue received a double blow this week when legislation to approve casino gambling and electronic keno went down in defeat.
“It’s a shame,” Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry, said yesterday. “The people of New Hampshire need a break on their property taxes.”
Baldasaro, a strong supporter of expanded gambling, said he was still disappointed after the Senate rejected a bill Thursday that would have allowed for keno at bars and restaurants around the state.
Keno is a game of chance in which players pick a series of numbers they hope will match computer-generated winning numbers.
It’s offered in 15 states, including Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Massachusetts ranks first in the nation with $790 million in keno revenues.
Charles McIntryre, executive director of the state Lottery Commission, has said allowing keno as proposed at 250 bars and restaurants would raise about $9 million in annual revenue.
The money would have helped fund the state’s education system, Baldasaro said.
“That money would be dedicated, it was directed to education,” he said. “This was an opportunity to put more money into the education fund and to give property taxpayers a break.”
House Bill 485, passed by the House on a 202-141 vote in January, was soundly defeated in the Senate on a voice vote with no debate, according to Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester.
While Baldasaro and other keno supporters say the state needs the revenue, opponents say allowing the game would harm New Hampshire’s image as a family-friendly state.
Baldasaro said veterans organizations have expressed interest in having keno machines at their halls.
“That would have been a win-win,” he said. “VFWs and American Legions wanted those in there. Bars wanted them.”
Baldasaro said the fight for keno isn’t over.
“We will try again next year,” he said.
The keno bill was killed only a day after the House voted, 173-172, to reject Senate Bill 366 — legislation introduced by D’Allesandro that would have allowed for two casinos in the state.
The bill will get a second chance Wednesday. That’s when the House will reconsider the proposal, which calls for a combined 5,000 video slot machines and 240 table games at two casinos.
Many Southern New Hampshire residents have hoped one of those casinos would be established at Rockingham Park in Salem, bringing millions of dollars in revenue and hundreds of jobs.
The Rock has a pending agreement with Millennium Gaming of Las Vegas to establish a $600-million-plus casino at the former racetrack if New Hampshire lawmakers pass expanded gambling.
The Senate has supported casino gambling, but the House has not.
The reverse has been the case for keno, said D’Allesandro , who does not support the game and certainly did not back the bill.
Keno would bring limited revenue and would not create the jobs, which is why D’Allesandro said he and his Senate colleagues refuse to back it — unlike the House.
“It’s a paradox,” he said. “I didn’t think it was very good legislation. I think we had a bill that was going to create jobs and revenue. Keno wasn’t going to do it, what we need is two casinos.”
Casino gambling would raise about $150 million in annual revenue, D’Allesandro said.
“We don’t need keno; it doesn’t produce any jobs,” he said. “If we’re going to do it, let’s do it right.”
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.