This session, lawmakers voted to provide additional funding for full-day kindergarten programs, but the amount will be determined by how much money is brought in by the newly authorized, online lottery game Keno. According to the Laconia Daily Sun, not all towns are eager to adopt the game, meaning that revenues from it are unclear:
Allan Beetle, owner of Patrick’s Pub in Gilford, admitted knowing very little about the game and whether it would be a good fit for his operation.
“At first glance, I’m not crazy about the thought of it — the environment and the atmosphere,” Beetle said.
The bill states that the first kindergarten grant would be awarded in fiscal year 2019, not earlier than July 1, 2018. Before any licenses are granted, however, the city or town in which the restaurant, hotel, ballroom, club, convention center or other venue is located must vote to allow keno gambling. In most cases, that would occur no sooner than the 2018 March Town Meeting, leaving a scant three months for the implementation of keno before the awarding of the grant.
“That’s why there was a lot of anxiety about tying it to keno revenue,” Senator David Watters (Dover) said.
The senator continued, “I think this is about the cities in the Southern Tier that are in a better position to make it work. Cities can adopt the provisions in a quicker timeline than towns.”
Addressing the revenue projections, Watters said, “What we heard and what they said in the House Finance Committee is that, in the first year, we might get around $4 million in revenue if Manchester and other cities like it go forward; then, the following year, it would reach the $8 to $9 million we were talking about. There was a recognition that this is going to take some time to ramp up.
“Some communities are unlikely to adopt keno,” Watters said. “Sen. (Jeff) Woodburn (D-Whitefield) is concerned that in places in the North Country keno would more likely result in transferring money from the less wealthy to serve needs of other school systems. That shows the anxieties people had with keno.”
Over 70% of New Hampshire schools offer full-day programs, and Senator Watters said he will continue to fight for full funding in the state budget:
“I’m fully confident that the next budget will fully fund all-day kindergarten. I think the keno issue will be moot at that point. I think that it will be a shared partisan goal by a couple of years from now. Right now, 75 percent of the schools offer full-day kindergarten, and by then, I expect 90 percent of schools will be offering it, and we will respond.”