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Keno rollout
A new gambling game readies to launch in NH

08/03/17
By Ryan Lessard news@hippopress.com



 Now that keno, a rapid number drawing game, is legal in New Hampshire, cities and towns will vote on whether to adopt it, as the state Lottery Commission is setting up the nuts and bolts of the program.

Some bars and restaurants might be able to start offering the game as soon as mid-December.
The way it will work in New Hampshire, keno players will choose from a matrix of numbers on a ticket of 80 numbers. They make their bets in an automatic kiosk that prints them a receipt, then they watch as a TV screen displays a drawing of 20 numbers every few minutes. 
Customers will receive their winnings directly from the machine, except for winnings of $500 or more, which will be mailed as a check.
You have to be 18 or older to play and it will only run from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. 
 
Up to cities and towns
Before anyone wins their first payout from keno, cities and towns must allow keno through a ballot measure. Cities will be the first to have a chance to vote on it this November. Towns will have a chance to vote on it in the town meetings in March and May.
To get the question of whether to allow keno on a city ballot or town warrant, the municipality needs to pass a vote of the city aldermen, council or selectmen or, alternatively, a petition signed by 5 percent of the community’s registered voters needs to be submitted to the legislative body.
According to the Manchester City Clerk’s office, there are 55,843 registered voters in the city, which means a petition would need about 2,790 signatures from among those voters.
Alderman Pat Long in Manchester said he made the aldermen aware of the process and will poll the board on where they stand on the issue when they get closer to their Aug. 15 meeting. Long is also a state rep for Manchester and voted for the keno bill, but he is on the fence about allowing it in the Queen City until he does more research on the topic.
 
Business benefit
“If Manchester were to do it, I think my customers would enjoy it,” said Keith Murphy, owner of Murphy’s Taproom in Manchester and a state rep for Bedford. 
Murphy said he would have the kiosk and screen set up in his Manchester bar as soon as he is able to, but he actually voted against the bill that legalized it because it was attached to full-day kindergarten funding.
Murphy expects Manchester to pass keno, and if it does pass in the majority of the state, he believes it would make far more than the $9 million in annual revenue. 
“It’s going to blow that number away,” Murphy said.
Bars will be able to keep 8 percent of keno sales.
“That is not what I would have expected. I would have been happy with less,” Murphy said.
He’s also happy that the kiosk system will be automated, freeing his staff up to focus on food and drink service.
In Maryland, where Murphy grew up, the keno transaction was done through bar staff, he said. And unlike New Hampshire, where it will only be available in establishments with liquor pouring licenses, Maryland had keno in “literally every gas station,” Murphy said.
Murphy said he thinks keno is a more social type of gambling game that works well in a bar environment.
“My impression is most people who play keno will play it somewhere that sells alcohol and has food and is a social place like a bar or a restaurant. I think that’s a very natural fit,” he said.
He also believes it will raise the revenue for the meals and rooms tax. 
“The reality is the benefit for me as an owner isn’t the 8 percent. It isn’t my small cut of what goes into that kiosk. The benefit to me as an owner and to my employees is that my customers will sit longer, they will have more food, they will drink more drinks,” Murphy said.
 
Gearing up
Right now, the New Hampshire Lottery Commission is taking steps to develop new software to run the keno system at the lottery headquarters. It’s working with Intralot, who has had keno in its contract since 2010, to provide the technology.
Bars will have boxes connected to secure DSL lines installed that can connect to TVs to display the live feed.
Charlie McIntyre, the executive director of the lottery commission, said they are also getting ready to reach out to qualifying bars and restaurants in the state with letters in the mail and follow-up phone calls, which will notify them of the option to add keno and inform them of the application process.
“Our projected go-live date is Dec. 15,” McIntyre said.
He said he expects a “vast majority” of cities and towns to adopt keno this fiscal year. And that can mean bringing a lot of dollars back into the state that have been spent in Massachusetts, according to McIntyre.
“Already, $25 million annually is wagered in Massachusetts on keno by New Hampshire citizens,” McIntyre said.
Generally, McIntyre said the most popular approach for players is to bet on four or five number combinations (like birthdays) with top prizes around $50. He expects a chunk of those winnings will go toward buying more food or tipping waiters better. Besides the 8 percent that will go to the hosting bar or restaurant, 2 percent is expected to pay for operating costs, a little over 69 percent will go toward winnings, 1 percent will be set aside for problem gambling services and the rest (about 19 percent) will be profit sent to the education trust fund to help pay for full-day kindergarten. 





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