New Hampshire Hearing on Embattled Casino Owner Wraps Up

Posted on: December 13, 2023, 06:34h. 

Last updated on: December 15, 2023, 09:27h.

Closing arguments were made Tuesday on whether a New Hampshire casino owner can retain a charitable gaming license. The issue up for debate is whether Andy Sanborn, a former state Senator, can keep the Concord Casino license.

The Draft Sports Bar & Grill
New Hampshire’s Draft Sports Bar & Grill is pictured above. Inside is the Concord Casino. State officials are considering whether to renew its license. (Image: New Hampshire Bulletin)

The decision is up to state Department of Safety hearing officer Michael King, who’s expected to release his judgment by the end of this month. He will review the arguments and evidence presented this week.

State officials claim there was fraud on Sanborn’s part and argue he improperly used some of the $844K from a federal COVID relief loan. Sanborn’s attorneys see it differently.

“There’s a big difference, Mr. King, between intentional misconduct and mistakes or carelessness,” Sanborn’s attorney, Zachary Hafer, argued during the hearing. He pointed out that Sanborn hired a consultant to help him fill out the application for the loan.

On Monday, New Hampshire Lottery Commission auditor Leila McDonough testified against Sanborn that his financial records were “sloppy at best,” the Associated Press reported.

Sanborn is accused of using $181K of that relief money on two Porsche race cars and $80K on a Ferrari for his wife, state Rep. Laurie Sanborn, R, officials said. Officials further claim that he used more than $183K on rent.

Off the Charts

McDonough said problems at the casino were “off the charts” and that she wasn’t allowed to count the money, the NH Journal reported.

How can you conduct an audit that includes cash when you’re not allowed to count the cash?” McDonough asked during the hearing, according to the Journal. “Eventually, you have to assume the cash doesn’t exist, since you’re not allowed to see it or count it.”

Casinos were also not supposed to qualify for COVID-19 relief loans. But Sanborn failed to mention that was his line of business.

Sanborn and his wife didn’t attend this week’s hearing. According to his attorney, they were at a Boston hospital, the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. He has reportedly been suffering from illness and has been unable to attend some proceedings.

Warning Letters

In addition, New Hampshire TV station WMUR reported this week that documents obtained from the New Hampshire Lottery Commission revealed the gaming property got almost 12 warning letters and almost 30 enforcement forms for violations between 2019 and 2023.

Those violations include running promotions not approved by the commission, lowering the prize in a casino tournament from the advertised $700 to $300, and giving charity money to a charity that did not have a current or valid license,” according to WMUR.

Sanborn’s gaming license for the Concord Casino expires on December 31. He’s also attempting to open a second casino, also in Concord.