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Bedford officials take no action on Keno proposal

Union Leader Correspondent

November 22. 2017 1:00AM

BEDFORD — At this time, town officials are opting to take no action on a proposal that would allow voters to decide whether Keno gaming should be permitted at local establishments.

Rather than voting last week to place the matter on the March ballot, the Town Council instead voted to take no action.

“I’ve had nobody in the community come forward to me and ask that this be placed on the ballot,” Town Manager Rick Sawyer told the council, explaining he has no indication whether there is support or opposition to allowing Keno in Bedford.

The Town Council has until the beginning of February to place the item on the ballot if the majority of the board changes its opinion on the matter.

But Sawyer said a citizen petition could be established by 5 percent of Bedford’s registered voters to place a referendum question on the March ballot asking voters if the operation of Keno gaming should be permitted in Bedford establishments with liquor licenses.

“My feeling is if the voters want to have Keno in Bedford, they can make a citizen petition — that is my position. I would vote against having the council put it on the ballot,” said Bill Duschatko, town councilor.

“I have the same position,” agreed Melissa Stevens, town councilor.

Chris Bandazian, vice chairman of the board, stressed that even if the council decided to place the question on the ballot, it does not mean the board supports or opposes the idea. Instead, it would allow voters to have a chance to weigh in on whether Keno belongs in Bedford, explained Bandazian.

“I would not be opposed to putting it on the ballot and let people decide,” he added.

Ultimately, the board decided to take no action on the proposal, meaning the Keno question will not be placed on the ballot unless the council changes its mind before the beginning of February, or a citizen petition is submitted.

Kelleigh Murphy, chairman of the Town Council, recused herself from the discussion and the final vote to take no action.

Murphy, a former state representative, said her husband may have authored a previous House proposal to allow Keno gaming, an initiative that she likely co-sponsored at the time. In addition, Murphy, one of the owners of Murphy’s Taproom in Manchester, said her business there is seeking to take advantage of the Keno initiative that passed earlier this month in Manchester; Murphy’s also has a new establishment in Bedford.

Recently, voters in Manchester, Nashua, Berlin, Claremont, Somersworth, Laconia and Franklin approved Keno. Voters in Concord, Dover, and Keene rejected having Keno in their cities; a recount has been scheduled for Wednesday to determine whether Keno will be permitted in Rochester.

Gov. Chris Sununu previously signed a bill to fund full-day kindergarten by taxing newly authorized Keno games in New Hampshire. The bill guarantees $1,100 per student each year, linked entirely to the revenue from Keno, but as the gaming revenue rises over the years, the state per-pupil grant could rise to $1,800 per student.

The program is voluntary, and Keno will only be implemented in communities where voters approve the measure either by a town meeting or citywide referendum.

Politics Bedford Local and County Government

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