Business as usual at Concord Casino until hearing and ruling

By SRUTHI GOPALAKRISHNAN

Monitor staff

Published: 10-04-2023 11:08 AM

At 4 p.m. each day, seven days a week, the doors of the Concord Casino welcome gamblers inside with vibrant blue tables positioned in the center of the space, each designed for a unique game of chance, like poker, blackjack and roulette.

Along the perimeter, beeping electronic video machines entice players to test their luck at games like Oil Rush and Lucky Striker.

Like most casinos, the windows are covered so gamblers have some privacy, and don’t get distracted by anything happening outside.

On weekdays, foot traffic is slower and sometimes the casino barely clears $1,000 a night. On weekends the casino truly comes alive, as gamblers stream in to play their hand. Records show the casino takes in about $1 million in revenue per year.

However, these may be the last days of the Concord Casino, located beneath the Draft Sports Bar and Grill on Concord’s Main Street.

The New Hampshire Lottery Commission and state Attorney General determined that Concord Casino owner Andy Sanborn, is unfit to be a part of New Hampshire’s charitable gaming business model.

A hearing was set for Tuesday when Sanborn was going to refute any allegations against him, and attempt to keep his charitable gaming licenses.

However, Sanborn and local fans of the casino can breathe a temporary sigh of relief as the hearing was postponed by 10 days, to Friday, Oct. 13. The casino can go on with business as usual until that date, or longer, depending on the commission’s ruling and any appeals.

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The state’s eight-month-long joint investigation revealed that Sanborn had fraudulently used $844,000 in COVID-19 relief funds to finance a lavish lifestyle. This included the purchase of two Porsches and a Ferrari for his wife, State Rep. Laurie Sanborn, the Attorney General and Lottery Commission announced in August.

Not only were the funds misused, but casinos were not even eligible for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan that Sanborn applied for and received. He got around that by concealing the registered trade name “Concord Casino” on his application by using the name “Win Win Win LLC” and listing the business activity as “miscellaneous.”

The hearing panel will consist of Debra Douglas, who serves as the Chairman of the Lottery Commission, along with Commissioners Erle Pierce and Andy Crews. The panel will also have either Attorney General John Formella or a designated representative from Formella’s office.

While previous cases related to an operator’s suitability have been addressed by the Lottery Commission, this appears to be the first instance that is progressing toward an actual hearing. Previous cases were resolved before reaching this stage.

During the hearing, Sanborn will have the opportunity to present his defense while the panel deliberates on three crucial issues: his suitability for involvement in charitable gaming, the potential revocation of his casino’s license and game operator license, and the imposition of a period of time barring him from future participation in charitable gaming activities.

Much like the watchful gaze of the several surveillance cameras in the casino, New Hampshire residents, charities and casinos across the state have their attention focused on Sanborn’s hearing.

Within the walls of the casino itself, a sense of normalcy persists, despite the increasing challenges faced by both the establishment and its owner.

As patrons step onto the navy carpet, adorned with intricate golden motifs, they are greeted by dealers, all clad in black attire. Their gaming licenses, issued by the Lottery Commission, dangle from their necks, silently marking their legitimacy.

As they find a seat at a table, employees approach, ready to take a drink order. Over a 10-day period, specific charities and non-profits are supposed to receive 35% of revenue. Sanborn routinely keeps half of that money in the form of rent, a practice that wasn’t part of the state’s investigation.

The specific timeframe of the ruling is unknown, but according to the Lottery Commission’s standard procedure, a final order is usually issued within 30 days of the hearing.

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