Sanborn opts against appealing NH casino closure

The Concord Casino ‘open’ light is not on at the downtown building on South Main Street on Tuesday, January 2, 2024.

The Concord Casino ‘open’ light is not on at the downtown building on South Main Street on Tuesday, January 2, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER

By SRUTHI GOPALAKRISHNAN

Concord Monitor

Published: 01-30-2024 11:40 AM

Concord Casino will continue to keep its lights off as Andy Sanborn has decided not to appeal the suspension of his gaming license.

The deadline for filing an appeal was Jan. 19, and the Lottery Commission confirmed that they hadn’t received one.

Now, the former state senator Sanborn has no option but to sell the casino on South Main Street in Concord to a New Hampshire Lottery Commission-approved buyer within six months.

According to the ruling by independent hearing officer Michael King made on Dec. 28, if he fails to sell the business within six months, Sanborn will risk license revocation.

The ruling was made on accusations that Sanborn fraudulently applied for and received $844,000 in COVID relief funds, which were intended for struggling small businesses, to fund his lavish lifestyle.

Casinos were explicitly excluded from receiving financial assistance. Sanborn managed to sidestep this restriction by masking the registered trade name “Concord Casino” on his application by utilizing the name “Win Win Win LLC” instead and categorized the business activity as “miscellaneous,” according to an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office and the Lottery Commission. His lawyers later argued the company was a charity gaming consulting business.

Sanborn faces accusations of extravagantly spending the funds received from the loan on two Porsche race cars for $181,000 and $80,000 on a Ferrari for his wife. Additionally, he paid himself over $183,000, disguised as rent for his properties.

“The misrepresentations on the EIDL application and the subsequent use of the proceeds for expenditures not allowed by that loan constitute conduct by the licensee that undermines the public confidence in charitable gaming,” King wrote in his report.

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Since the ruling, the casino’s lights have occasionally been turned on, but the Lottery Commission assured that the gaming facility has remained closed. However, The Drafts Sports Bar & Grill, located in the same building as the casino and owned by Sanborn, remains open.

“We have been periodically reviewing surveillance to ensure that no gaming is taking place,” said the Lottery Commission.

King’s decision left certain questions unanswered about a path back for Sanborn to operate one of the state’s 14 charitable gaming establishments or the future of a larger casino and event center on Loudon Road, which he and his wife State Rep. Laurie Sanborn got approved by the Concord Planning Board.

If the new casino is built, Sanborn cannot just operate the casino once the suspension is lifted.

He must undergo a suitability review by both the Department of Justice and the New Hampshire Lottery Commission, the same government entities that investigated Sanborn’s use of COVID funds and found him unsuitable to be involved with charitable gaming.

Sanborn is also the subject of two criminal investigations by both state and federal authorities.