Dueling lawsuits target Sanborn’s casino plans on Heights

Andy Sanborn, former state senator and owner of Draft Sports Bar & Grill and the Concord Casino, a small-scale charitable gaming operation in downtown Concord, has proposed a 43,000-square-foot casino, bar and hotel on the city's east side.

Andy Sanborn, former state senator and owner of Draft Sports Bar & Grill and the Concord Casino, a small-scale charitable gaming operation in downtown Concord, has proposed a 43,000-square-foot casino, bar and hotel on the city's east side.

Andy Sanborn, former state senator and owner of Draft Sports Bar & Grill and the Concord Casino has proposed a casino, bar and hotel on the city’s east side.

Andy Sanborn, former state senator and owner of Draft Sports Bar & Grill and the Concord Casino has proposed a casino, bar and hotel on the city’s east side. Courtesy

By SRUTHI GOPALAKRISHNAN

Monitor staff

Published: 02-20-2024 5:13 PM

One lawsuit challenging the Concord Planning Board’s approval of Andy Sanborn’s new casino on Loudon Road is on hold as another suit against a zoning board decision proceeds.

Concord resident Kassey Cameron sued the city in July after the planning board approved the first phase of Sanborn’s casino and microbrewery in June, without notifying residents about the continuation of a public hearing that led to the eventual 4-2 vote of approval. She also asserted that the city couldn’t have approved a casino near Loudon Road because it isn’t allowed in that zone. 

She asked the zoning board to step in, then filed a second suit after the board refused to revisit the issue because her request was filed too late. Superior Court Judge John Kissinger approved Cameron’s request to pause the case against the planning board, known as a motion to stay, while the other suit continues. 

Big Step LLC, which worked with Sanborn to put forward the casino application, also sued the city. That suit was combined with Cameron’s suit against the zoning board. A hearing in that case is scheduled for April.  

In her original suit filed in July, Cameron argued the city’s approval of the project was a “drastic deprivation of the public’s right to due process to meaningfully participate in the process of determining the significance of the impact of a proposed, large-scale casino, microbrewery, restaurant and ultimately hotel.”

Residents were informed that the hearing would occur in August, since Sanborn had failed to produce an adequate emergency services assessment and traffic study.

Instead, Sanborn presented the results of a new emergency services report from a different consultant, which he handed to the board members in paper form at the meeting. City staff was unaware of his intentions until three hours before the meeting.

Sanborn surprised the planning board and demanded a vote.

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“It’s a little bit of an ambush,” Planning Board Chair Richard Woodfin said at the meeting.

The building’s location near the intersection of Loudon and Sheep Davis roads, close to Interstate 393 off Break O’Day Drive is in the city’s gateway performance district that allows retail stores, restaurants and offices. Sanborn plans to build a 24,000-square-foot gaming room or casino with 634 seats. Along with it, the first phase includes an 8,500-square-foot restaurant and brewpub capable of accommodating up to 150 diners.

The lawsuit argues the planning board made a “legal error by approving uses that are not permitted in the applicable zoning district.”

In emails to city officials following the casino’s approval, residents expressed concerns about the potential ramifications, including increased crime rates, traffic congestion and overall safety issues.

Sanborn, a former state senator, owns a Concord casino on South Main Street that he has been ordered to sell after an investigation by the Attorney General and the New Hampshire Lottery Commission found him unsuitable for charity gaming. He also faces state and federal criminal investigations into accusations that he improperly obtained and spent COVID-19 relief funds.