Keno Wars: Mass. Lottery Threatened by New Hampshire’s Tax-Free, Online Games

Posted on: August 30, 2017, 06:53h. 

Last updated on: August 30, 2017, 06:59h.

A border war is looming in New England, as Massachusetts officials try to figure out their best response to an offensive move by neighboring New Hampshire, which intends to go after the region’s keno lottery dollars starting in January.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu wants keno
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu signed a bill authorizing online lottery and keno ticket sales in July, unleashing a wave of anxiety over lottery officials across the border in Massachusetts. (Image: AP)

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu signed a bill in July that seeks to fund early education with revenue generated from the introduction of keno by the state’s lottery. The new law also allows New Hampshire to sell lottery and keno tickets online.

Keno has been a huge success in Massachusetts since the game was introduced in 1993. Last year, the vertical hit an all-time high of $915 million in ticket sales, accounting for 18 percent of all lottery sales.

Keno Craze

In this part of the United States, border crossing is simple and common, and New Hampshire plans to aggressively go after players in the region, believing their state has two advantages in not having an income tax, and having lottery sales available online.

“In New Hampshire you will win 5 percent more because, unlike Massachusetts, you don’t have to pay income tax,” New Hampshire State Lottery Commission Executive Director Charlie McIntyre told the New Hampshire Union Leader recently. “Trust me, we will be marketing that benefit in a big way.”

McIntyre arguably knows about the game’s potential better than most, as he previously served as assistant executive director and general counsel for the Massachusetts Lottery, where he oversaw the expansion of their keno product.

Massachusetts suspects there is a healthy appetite for keno among the New Hampshire populace, as six of the state’s ten most popular keno outlets are located within 10 miles of the border.

Lottery Cyberbattle

“This has a potential devastating effect on the lottery and it’s going to be profound and cities and towns are going to be the ultimate recipients of that downturn,” Massachusetts Comptroller Thomas Shack, who serves on the Lottery Commission, said Tuesday. “I hope the legislature is listening.”

Treasurer Deborah Goldberg noted the serious disadvantage they face because the state’s lottery commission has refused to offer existing lottery products online.

“I think the thing they have to really look at is what drove the profit last year. Keno, for the last two years, we’ve beefed up sales and it has helped carry the ball,” she said. “To have (New Hampshire) be able to do a double hit, which is online and Keno, and we’re sitting here like dead ducks.”

A special committee in Massachusetts that recently delivered its policy recommendation on online gaming and DFS was specifically instructed by the legislature not to look into online lottery sales, as there remains opposition from retailers who rely on ticket sales to attract customers to their stores.