Proposal would allow NH retailers to sell keno tickets

This sounds like good news for store owners who want to sell and not just cash in keno tickets. Currently, only bars and restaurants can sell the tickets, allowing players to choose between 1 and 12 numbers and bet from $1 to $25.

But in a compromise bill to be presented to the full House and Senate next Thursday, retailers in the 91 communities that have endorsed keno could sell tickets but would be prohibited from hanging a screen for display winning drawings and numbers.

Retailers and grocers said House Bill 355 attract customers and compensate them for the payment of winnings on tickets purchased in bars and restaurants, currently the only establishments authorized to sell them. Supporters include the State Lottery Commission, New Hampshire Grocers Association, and New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association.

A disagreement over displays nearly killed the bill on Wednesday, with Senate negotiators insisting that retailers be allowed to hang screens to display designs, which happens every five minutes. A House member said some people didn’t like the look and insisted it be banned.

In defending his position, Representative Patrick Abrami, a Republican from Stratham, acknowledged that, like the other members of the committee, he had heard no opposition to the bill. But he attributed the silence to ignorance, not support.

“Most people have no idea what’s going on at State House,” he told a conference committee meeting. “They have no idea.”

Abrami also said letting the bill fail would have little consequence.

“If we don’t pass this bill, none of the businesses we’re talking about will close. Not one,” he said. “It’s such an infinitesimal amount of revenue that it won’t matter. Keno alone isn’t going to bring business.

The state Lottery Commission estimated that 700 retailers would choose to sell the tickets, each of which would have to apply and pay a $500 license fee. Earlier this year, Commissioner Charles McIntyre told House lawmakers that bars and restaurants that sell tickets bring in an average of $670 a day and keep about $50. McIntyre estimated that expanding keno sales in stores and supermarkets would bring an additional $6 million a year to the state’s education fund.

Senator Gary Daniels, a Republican from Milford, supported giving store owners the option to hang a screen. He told Abrami that it was the job of the Legislative Assembly to create opportunities to establish and grow a business in New Hampshire. “I think that’s what we’re trying to do with this bill here: try to create an opportunity,” he said.

Rep. Tim Lang, a Republican from Sanbornton, introduced the bill last year with language to give store owners the ability to use displays. He said he could accept the compromise banning screens and, if re-elected, introduce legislation making them optional.

“I’m a proponent of incrementation,” he said at the committee meeting. “I’ll take something out of nothing if my only option is nothing.”

During each game of KENO 603, players choose between one and 12 numbers and can place a bet from $1 to $25 per game. A computer randomly generates 20 winning numbers from 1 to 80 every five minutes. The more numbers played and successful, the greater the winnings.

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