The Anteroom

Curtis Barry: Keno is overlooked as NH focuses on casino legislation

Though there have been several Keno proposals over the years, they’ve been overshadowed by casino legislation and have not been met with a serious attempt to create a workable program within the New Hampshire Lottery.

Connecticut is the latest state to move in the direction of Keno, as apparently, negotiations with the Native American casinos is the only hurdle to overcome.  Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York all engage in Keno to the benefit of their state treasuries.  It is worthy to note that the latter two also have casino gambling in place, and that has not appeared to affect Keno sales.  The Keno product is designed to be a casual activity, typically in liquor-licensed establishments, where patrons participate in Keno games as a secondary activity.  Contrast this with players in a casino for whom gambling is the primary reason for their visit.

New Hampshire Lottery sales have increased dramatically in recent years, but the increases are relative.  The previous high for sales was state fiscal year (SFY) 2007 at just under $265 million.  Sales dropped to a low of about $230 million in SFY 2011.  And only in the current fiscal year will they surpass the previous high (anticipated to best 2007 by about 5% at over $265 million), following an increase of about 12% in SFY 2012.
But the anticipated sales in 2013 is a level that would have been reached at an annual growth of just over 1% since 2007 and the recent increases surely will level off naturally, to say nothing of the lottery sales in northeastern NH siphoned-off by the newest neighboring casino in Oxford Maine and the eventual affect on sales by the facilities in the Commonwealth to our south.

On the other hand, recent fiscal notes indicate Keno in New Hampshire would deliver an $8 million benefit to public education.  That’s $8 million more in general fund revenue that could be put to use elsewhere.