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Mar 1, 2016 5:22 PM

Landrigan: Keno remains popular idea in NH House, but enough to approve a casino?

CONCORD - Keno is essentially an electronic bingo game, wildly popular in our neighboring state to the south, and some lawmakers remain determined to legalize it here.

"This is in essence a user fee as opposed to a tax,’’ said State Rep. Lynne Ober, R-Hudson.

The top supporter says her bill to legalize Keno only happens in towns that vote for it, it would let bars and restaurants keep 8 percent of the gross, and the state needs the $8 million in revenue.

The state lottery chief says it’s a logical way to keep his players gambling with the state.

"Commerce changes right? You have to sort of keep players attention as you would any customer attention," said Charles McIntyre, executive director of the lottery.

"So this is one way you would make changes to our current offerings."

But Senate leaders want a casino and say this form of new gambling doesn’t do enough.

"The basic negative is it doesn’t do what you really want it to do,’’ said Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester and the political godfather of casino advocates in the New Hampshire Legislature. "We have a lottery; the lottery does well, this will impinge on the lottery, and it doesn’t really provide economic opportunity, it doesn’t provide jobs and it doesn’t provide the revenue base.’’

A leading opponent says keno has taken over the Massachusetts lottery.

"Keno now accounts for nearly three quarters of lottery revenue,’’ says Rep. Mary Cooney, D-Plymouth. "New Hampshire should not depend on revenue which is too often taken from those who can least afford to lose it.’’

Senators say they’re willing to deal if it means getting a casino.

"You talk about things; you either add or subtract based on what’s desirable to get the bill passed," D’Allesandro said.

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