Concord Casino wants to build new venue; others expand for historic horse racing

Oct. 30—The owners of the Concord Casino hope to expand as part of a multi-phase project that will include a charitable gaming facility, restaurant, events center and hotel.

Concord Casino is among several Granite State charitable gaming businesses aiming to expand their operations.

The proposed hospitality venue would be built on Break O'Day Drive off of Loudon Road. The parcel is visible from Interstate 393. Phase 1 calls for a 24,000-square-foot gaming hall and a 4,800-square-foot restaurant.

Andy and Laurie Sanborn, managing partners, will be presenting the plans to the Concord Planning Board. Andy Sanborn is a former Republican state senator from Bedford and Laurie is a state representative.

Andy Sanborn said the project will be a gateway to those visiting or passing through Concord from the west or north. The east side of the city remains largely undeveloped, according to the project application.

A big part of the move has to do with adding historic horse racing, approved last year. Historic horse racing games look and operate similar to other gaming machines, but players pick winners of randomly selected horse races that have already been run.

Historic horse racing had brought in $450,000 to the state with only two locations licensed so far, according to Rick Newman, a New Hampshire lobbyist for the industry. A third venue, The Lucky Moose Casino & Tavern, also offers the machines.

"As it begins to ramp up, the state revenue will increase," he said. The entire industry is set to bring in $18 million to $22 million for charity from bingo, Lucky 7 and other games of chance.

Eventually more facilities will offer historic horse racing.

Filotimo Casino & Restaurant in Manchester has been outfitted for the machines, but is still waiting to be licensed, according to owner Dick Anagnost.

Many such casinos are looking to expand to maximize the amount of money that can be raised for charity as allowed under state regulations.

Anagnost has also expanded and waiting to licensed in Dover and Keene. Facilites in Conway and Lebanon are under construction, he said.

Recently, some national gaming operators had bought or entered into an agreement to buy casinos.

New Hampshire has a scaled-back version of gambling with maximum bets, which is more of a form of entertainment, Anagnost said.

Kentucky-based Churchill Downs bought Chasers Poker Room in Salem and Buffalo-based Delaware North entered an agreement to buy Boston Billiards Club in Nashua.

Chasers will expand into a former Kmart.

The Brook has undergone a multimillion dollar renovation since Nevada-based Eureka Casino Resort acquired the former Seabrook Park property in 2019.

There are 15 charitable gaming facilities across the state.

Anagnost said out-of-state companies have bought out local operators because of the costs associated with expanding to include the new machines.

"You see more of that with the cost of $25,000 per machine," he said.

The Sanborns opened the small downtown casino in 2019, knowing allowing wagers on historical horse racing would pass the Legislature.

"We opened up a very small facility acknowledging that we were going to build something bigger to accommodate the market need,"' Andy Sanborn said. "We kind of waited for HHR to pass."

For more than a year, the Sanborns have looked for a space to relocate before coming upon the highly visible vacant parcel. The casino will undergo a rebranding and be renamed.

"It is a great piece of land," he said. "It sits directly on 393 basically right near the on- and off-ramp."

Sanborn said adding historic horse racing will help the business double its charitable contributions.

"For us, it is all about trying to take pressure off of the state budget and off of local budgets," he said. "Providing an entertainment venue where people can come have some fun and in doing so help those in most need in our communities."

The building will reflect an old mill building and the restaurant will pay homage to New Hampshire, which includes an opportunity to display an historic Concord Coach in the lobby. The landscape will be enhanced with birch and maple trees.

The future hotel and event center will be designed to be "exciting, fun and funky" and designed for both businesspeople and tourists. The event space could hold small concerts and other events.

He acknowledged the industry is coming off of tough times during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Most people are trying to get back to some sense of normalcy and business and business is conducting itself again," he said.

Anagnost said the projects will be a boon for the charities the gaming facilities support and state for the taxes revenue.

"Instead of having a large casino interest come in and have all that money shipped to wherever there headquarters are, most of the money stays for the most part right here in our state," he said. "And it benefits the most needy."