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N.H. House Passes Keno, But Kills Bill on Video Lottery

Brian Wallstin for NHPR
The Common Grounds Cafe in Methuen

A bill aimed to legalize Keno in New Hampshire again passed the N.H. House. The measure will now head to the Senate – where a similar bill died during the previous legislative session.

If signed into law the bill would allow Keno, a form of electronic bingo, in places with liquor licenses, but the game will remain prohibited from convenience stores and gas stations.

Keno is estimated to bring in an estimated $8 to $9 million in state revenue per year.

Credit Sara Plourde / NHPR
Don't know much about keno? Check out this explainer of the game created by NHPR's Sara Plourde and Brian Wallstin

  Rep. Bill Omh of Nashua told his colleagues Wednesday that the strongest part of this bill is that it leaves the decision of authorizing keno or not - up to cities and towns.

“If I believe that keno will remain prohibited in every city and town unless passed by a local referendum would I now press the green button and allow cities and towns to decide this question,” Omh said. 

Those opposed to Keno argued that the state should not depend on revenue that is often taken from low-income and the elderly.

On the other hand, the House voted against legalizing video lottery. The bill would have allowed places with liquor licenses to have up to six machines, which those in favor say would have brought in more than $217 million in state revenue a year. That money would then be put toward the state's Education Trust Fund, leading to a 5 percent decrease in property taxes, say the bill's supporters.

Rep.David Hess of Hooksett, who voted in favor of casinos last session, strongly opposed this bill saying it lacked oversight. 

“The bill is a skeleton bill, it doesn’t contain many restrictions or limitations. It doesn’t establish a regulatory scheme like the other casino bills had,” Hess told his colleagues.  

A bill to legalize casino passed the Senate but died in the House last session.

Members also rejected a bill that would have allowed the state to accept the electronic currency bitcoin for state taxes and fees.

They also voted down a measure aimed to change the state’s constitution. If passed, legislators would have needed a super majority rather than a simple majority to raid the state’s dedicated funds.

Those opposed to the bill say this measure could prevent future legislatures from temporarily reordering funds if needed in a financial crisis. Last session, the legislature used dollars from the state's Renewable Energy Fund to balance the state budget.

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