Keno Question Comes Up at Town Council Meeting

It didn’t take long after the mention of Keno gambling for divisions to emerge between Chairman Tom Dolan and Vice Chairman John Farrell at  Londonderry Town Council Meeting on Monday, Nov. 6.

Deliberations on the subject began when Town Manager Kevin Smith asked the question of whether the council should sponsor the ballot question for Keno in Londonderry on the town warrant.

In accordance with the passage of state funding for full-day kindergarten this past summer, each town and city in the state is tasked with deciding whether not they will allow keno gambling in their local bars and restaurants.

Under the provisions of the new law, the state will provide a set dollar amount for each full-day kindergarten student beginning in 2019. After 2019, the per-student amount would change based on how much revenue the state takes in from keno.

Currently Londonderry does not offer a full-day kindergarten, a fact that Chairman Dolan was quick to point out in his case against sponsoring a warrant question.

“It doesn’t do anything for the community and we don’t get any of the money,” said Dolan. “I don’t think it’s going to enhance our social fabric to have gambling in the pubs or restaurants.”

While Dolan noted that Londonderry’s willingness to adopt full-day kindergarten might change his opinion, he made clear that his personal preference would be to leave adding keno to the warrant up to a citizen’s petition.

“I don’t have any issue letting the voters vote on it. But personally, I would not want to sponsor it as a warrant. If the citizens really want it, let them sponsor it in a citizen’s petition,” outlined Dolan.

On the other side of the issue, Vice Chairman Farrell expressed his view that the Town Council had a duty to put keno on the warrant and let the voters come to a decision when Londonderry goes to the polls this spring.

“People vote for their legislators, they put them in office, and the legislature puts something out to let the voters vote. Right or wrong, let the voters vote up or down,” said Farrell. “They [the legislature] put it out there at the state level and I think you should let the voters tell them what they think.”

Although Farrell mentioned that he had no intention of supporting keno if it goes to the warrant, he went on to express frustration at what he sees as the state legislature’s failure to properly inform the public about enabling legislation like the question of keno.

Standing up to address the council, Rep. Doug Thomas, R-Londonderry, said he believed “towns have the experience and expertise behind them to decide which way they would like to go.”

In the end, a consensus was reached that the council would revisit the issue of warrant sponsorship after the November 7, election day, when upwards of ten towns would have the keno question on their ballots.

The last day for citizens to submit petition warrant articles will be January 9, 2018.