Concord City Council Votes to Allow Small Casinos, Block Larger Venues

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Edward Scimia

Updated by Edward Scimia

Journalist

Last Updated 11th Jul 2024, 01:43 AM

Concord City Council Votes to Allow Small Casinos, Block Larger Venues

Former New Hampshire state senator and accused COVID fraudster Andy Sanborn swears he has a buyer for his old Concord Casino. (Image: Elise Amendola / Associated Press)

The Concord City Council made it clear on Monday that the New Hampshire city is open to casino gaming, as long as it remains small and limited in scope. 

The city council passed a zoning ordinance allowing any business in Concord to open a casino, provided that the gaming facility is smaller than the primary business itself.

This comes at a time when former state senator and legally troubled casino owner Andy Sanborn was being pressured to sell his shuttered Concord Casino. On Wednesday, it was revealed that Las Vegas-based Full House Resorts – which owns seven casinos in Colorado, Indiana, Illinois, Mississippi and Nevada – was the prospective buyer.

Ordinance Designed to Prevent Casino ‘Proliferation’

The Concord ordinance would only allow small casinos to offer up to 10 events or days of play each year. The gaming venues would also be limited to specified zoning districts. The goal appears to be to prevent several full casinos from opening in the city, as has happened in Nashua, where three casinos are already up and running with another under construction. 

“This does prevent a proliferation of casinos in other parts of the city and I think this is a sound measure to move forward,” Concord Mayor Byron Champlin said, according to the Concord Monitor. “I think this ordinance will actually do what is desired which is to keep us from having a casino on every street corner.”

The ordinance won’t impact existing casino operations in the city. That includes the Concord Casino – though that facility is currently closed, pending a potential sale – and a proposed casino off Loudon Road. But it does effective prevent any new full-scale casinos from opening, at least for the time being. The ordinance is temporary, though there is not sunset date for the regulations. 

Given the heavy limits on gaming activity posed by the 10-day limit each year, it’s unlikely that any major operations will open under the new ordinance. Still, some locals didn’t feel they went far enough for the new rules.

“I’m thinking about traffic, I’m thinking about disruption. People get drunk at a gaming facility,” environmental scientist Steven Winnett said during Monday’s meeting. “I think that there’s more going on here that needs to be examined and more people need to weigh in on this, so I have a lot of concerns.” 

Others worried that the ordinance could expose the city to unintended consequences.

“It does not achieve what was intended when we discussed this earlier and if in passing something that does not achieve the desired intent and opens the city to a legal battle I don’t feel confident,” councilor Judith Kurtz said.

Sanborn Selling Concord Casino, Wants to Build Another

While the city actions move forward, the state of New Hampshire remains locked in a battle with former State Sen. Andy Sanborn, who owns the Concord Casino and is attempting to sell it. Sanborn has claimed that he has as many as five potential buyers for the facility. Initially, Sanborn had until June 17 to sell the casino, but that deadline has been extended to July 18. 

Sanborn will get another 90 days to complete the sale if it is pending, though the state Lottery Commission remains unconvinced that anyone is about to buy the shuttered casino.

“There is simply no evidence that either party intends to close the deal,” wrote Jessica King, an attorney for the Lottery Commission, according to NH Business Review. “The respondent is hedging its bets and keeping all options open to any potential deal that may come its way.”

Meanwhile, Sanborn is hoping to construct a new casino off Loudon Road in Concord. That facility, which would include a microbrewery and a restaurant, was the subject of lawsuits filed by Concord resident Kassey Cameron, who is suing the city’s planning and zoning boards over their approval of the casino. However, Merrimack Superior Court recently found that Cameron did not have standing to appeal the zoning board’s decision.

The Lottery Commission has accused Sanborn of fraudulently acquiring $844,000 in COVID relief meant for small businesses, and suspended his gaming license in December because of it. Sanborn chose not to appeal the suspension, and still faces a license revocation if he is unable to complete the sale of his Concord Casino.

Meet The Author

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Edward Scimia
Edward Scimia
Journalist Journalist

Ed Scimia is a freelance writer who has been covering the gaming industry since 2008. He graduated from Syracuse University in 2003 with degrees in Magazine Journalism and Political Science. In his time as a freelancer, Ed has worked for About.com, Gambling.com, and Covers.com, among other sites. He has also authored multiple books and enjoys curling competitively, which has led to him creating curling-related content for his YouTube channel "Chess on Ice."

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