Jaffrey residents debate keno at public hearing

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, February 28, 2018 5:58PM

The concept of allowing the lottery game keno to operate in Jaffrey elicited a number of strong reactions from local residents during a public hearing Monday.

About an equal number of residents from the 12-person audience vocalized their support or opposition for the lottery game, which will only be allowed in town at businesses with valid pouring licenses if approved by voters by ballot vote in March.

“We have people that go to those establishments… and spend their money on other things that are not wise to spend their money on, and then they can’t pay their rent,” said resident Harvey Sawyer. “We wind up with the problem, we are supporting these people.”

Keno, known as Keno 603 in the state, has players selecting numbers to try and match randomly generated numbers that appear on a computer monitor every five minutes. The more numbers that are matched, the more money is won.

Keno 603 was approved in six municipal city elections in November and is on the ballot on 77 towns – including Rindge and Wilton – throughout the state this year. As of December, Keno 603 is on sale in more than 40 bars and restaurants, according to the NH Lottery website.

Retailers of the game receive an eight-percent sales commission – the highest in the country, according to NH Lottery – with additional bonuses possible.

The state currently pays districts about $1,800 per kindergarten student in state aid, but a new law will have the state chipping in at least $1,100 more per student in a full-day kindergarten program beginning in 2019 from the revenue generated from keno.

“I am here to express my deep reservations and concern about having keno introduced to our town because we have a lot of issues already,” said resident Tory McCagg. “I really question having people spend their hard-earned dollars on a keno ticket when they can already have this other stuff… I recognize the revenue, but it seems like we could find other ways.”

McCagg said she researched facts and statistics on the internet prior to showing up at the public hearing, determining that bringing keno to town could have a negative effect on the town, especially because it could lead more adolescents to gamble.

Selectmen Frank Sterling and Cush Moore stated they were in favor of bringing keno to town, while board member Jim Weimann was more hesitant.

“Life is all about choices,” said Weimann, who said he was at the meeting to “present the article as stated.”

“I get very disgusted when I go into stores and have to wait 10-15 minutes while someone is buying their lottery ticket and they don’t have the old proverbial pot to you know what in. But this is a way to generate more revenue... I agree its probably not the best choice.”

Not all were against keno, however.

“I think people are going to gamble whether you bring it in or not. To help the town’s children, it’s probably a good idea,” said Sherry Cook. “People can go down to Massachusetts to play it. If they buy scratch tickets they might choose to play keno. I don’t agree with gambling, but to each person their own.”

Kevin Hampsey also spoke in favor of keno as the revenue supports the town’s youth. He also acknowledged that people could already gamble in town by going to a convenience store to purchase a scratch ticket.

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com. He is also on Twitter @nhandyMLT.