MILTON - Three Ponds Tavern had its usual mix of customers for a Saturday afternoon, but there were a couple of new ones, too.
A pair of elderly women sat quietly at a booth sipping on their favorite beverage and - like 90 percent of the other customers - playing Keno, an electronic numbers gambling game approved by Milton voters in March.
Noticing all the Keno tickets on the bar one patron said, "Yeah, this is turning into Milton gambling central."
Before Milton voted tavern owner Gary Poole said he was hoping it would pass, and after it passed he said he was looking into it.
|A machine where Keno tickets are dispensed shows a sign boasting of the tavern's high winner thus far.|
Well, about a month ago, he began offering the New Hampshire-lottery based game, and it's been quite a hit with customers, he said.
In fact, one customer hit big a couple of weeks ago, winning, $6,700.
One player who said his name was Jim said he plays it every time he comes in.
The only other area bar that currently operates the Keno game is Two Doors Down on Route 108 in Somersworth, which tops the state in Keno revenue, according to a recent report.
The Keno game can only be played at pouring establishments like Three Ponds.
The Keno system draws 20 numbers from a field of 80 numbers every four minutes.
Players select from 1 to 12 numbers or "spots" for each game. A computer then randomly chooses 20 winning numbers from 1 to 80 and displays them on a Keno monitor.
Payoffs range from a $1 to $1 million depending on how many numbers are chosen and show up on the screen.
In New Hampshire the game is available at licensed bars and taverns from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Passed last year, New Hampshire's Keno for kindergarten bill gives cities and towns across New Hampshire the right to allow Keno gambling with all profits from the game deposited in the education trust fund in order to provide grants to full-time kindergarten students.
Kelly Cleland of the New Hampshire Lottery Commission said during a public hearing in Rochester in September that Keno would return some $9 million to state education coffers.
She said establishments that carry the game would pay a $500 license fee and would be paid an 8 percent commission rate on all Keno sales.
Asked if he liked having the game. Poole quipped, "I get eight cents on the dollar, course I like it."
The Rochester Keno initiative failed by virtue of a tie vote in November, 1,037-1,037.
It is expected to be on the ballot once again in 2019, either by City Council approval or citizen's petition.