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$11 Million Headed to Kindergarten in N.H., But Keno Revenues Fall Short


New Hampshire is sending about $11 million to full-day kindergarten programs this year.

The money is the result of SB 191. The law, passed last year, mandates that the state help cover costs of full-day kindergarten, covering at least $1,100 - or 7 percent - of per pupil costs.

SB 191 has been nicknamed the "keno-garten law" because it requires that all revenue generated by the electronic Keno gambling game go to funding full-day kindergarten, and that the state's Education Trust Fund pick up any shortfall.

In August, Keno sales hit $11.7 million. New Hampshire Lottery Director Charlie McIntyre says that after overhead and prize costs, 17 to 18 cents of every keno dollar ends up going to school districts. That leaves about $2 million so far this fiscal year for kindergarten programs, far below the $12 million in Keno revenue anticipated by the state.

McIntyre estimates that as Keno becomes more ubiquitous, the game will net a little under $8 million in revenue this fiscal year.

McIntyre says that the 160 stores already offering keno have reported overall increases in beverages and food sales, and an uptick in keno usage over the last five weeks.

"The per-store [revenue] is exactly what we anticipated," he says. "But we just don't have as many locations as we had hoped, because a number of the towns didn't approve it to go forward with. We're hoping to go back in the spring, visit those towns again, and hopefully have them approve it."

As McIntyre works to convince cities like Lebanon and Concord to approve Keno, the Education Trust Fund will pick up the budget shortfall this year.

Legislative Budget Assistant Michael Kane says that will be easy for the Education Trust Fund, which has an estimated $21.4 million in surplus this year.

"That's the most surplus I've seen in my 18 years of working here," Kane says. He credits a strong economy and business taxes for the boost.

Sarah Gibson joined NHPR's newsroom in 2018. She reports on education and demographics.
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