CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire’s House has stomped on efforts to legalize video slot machines over the years but is considering taking a baby step into the electronic gambling age Wednesday when a bill to legalize electronic keno comes up for a vote.

The bill would allow the Lottery Commission to install electronic keno games in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol.

“This would be the next, logical small step for the Lottery to do,” said Charlie McIntyre, executive director of the Lottery Commission.

McIntyre estimates keno would raise $9 million annually if the game were offered at 250 sites. He said he gets frequent inquiries from bar owners who want to offer the game. Some of the revenue would come from New Hampshire residents staying home to play rather than driving across the border to Massachusetts.

McIntyre said 15 states offer keno, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York.

In keno, players select numbers for each game from a field of 80 numbers, mark a paper slip and hand it to the bartender with their money, said McIntyre. A computer randomly selects 20 winning numbers about every six minutes and flashes them on a screen in the bar or restaurant.


Players can bet from $1 to $30. Players picking fewer numbers earn a higher payout if their choices are the winning numbers, McIntyre said. Unlike a video slot game, players are not sitting in front of a computer terminal, he said.

“It’s a whole lot faster than current offerings, no question,” McIntyre said.

The game would be offered from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. No one under age 18 could play.

Supporters say the money raised would go for education and provide support for research, prevention and treatment for problem gamblers.

They also argue keno is a different product than the video slot machines the House has consistently refused to legalize, most recently when it killed a Senate bill last year that would have allowed a casino to be licensed.

Opponents argue electronic gambling will damage New Hampshire’s image.

Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, the frequent sponsor of casino legislation, criticized keno as “a foolish game” that would hurt the chance of passing his latest bill to legalize a casino. D’Allesandro said people mistakenly treat keno like it is enhanced bingo and not the gambling it is.

“What it does is hinder our opportunity to put something in place that creates jobs and provides economic development to our communities,” said D’Allesandro, D-Manchester.

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