Proposed Charitable Casino in Concord, N.H. Leads to Controversy, Petition

Posted on: February 17, 2023, 01:04h. 

Last updated on: February 17, 2023, 01:17h.

Many Concord, N.H. residents voiced criticisms about a conditionally-approved charitable casino during a Wednesday public hearing before the city’s Planning Board.

New Hampshire state capitol building in Concord
New Hampshire state capitol building in Concord, pictured above. A proposed casino in the city is leading to controversy. (Image: TripAdvisor)

There are worries over the small venue’s impact on the environment, increased traffic, and other negatives that come with a new gaming property and related businesses, according to the Concord Monitor newspaper.

The 43,000 square-foot proposed project on the city’s East Side would include a gaming floor, restaurant, and bar, and eventually may include a hotel.

150 Sign Petition

A local environmental group which advocates for limited growth, the Concord Greenspace Coalition, gave board members a petition opposing the planned casino. There were more than 150 signatures on the document.

The casino developer is Andy Sanborn. He is an ex-New Hampshire state senator and owns the Concord Casino, an existing charitable gaming venue in downtown Concord. He is also owner of Concord’s Draft Sports Bar & Grill.

Judith Kurtz, vice president of the Concord Greenspace Coalition, presented Planning Board members numerous police reports between 2018 and 2022 associated with The Draft Bar & Grill.

There were 131 police calls at the Draft during the four-year period. Some 61 were related to crimes or assaults, she said.

Kurtz and other residents also worry if the casino and linked businesses were to fail.

This is a short-sighted solution for bringing in new revenue,” Thomas Sideris told board members. “When the newness and the novelty wears off, what is the Sanborn group going to do?”

Cassie Raymond additionally worried about the increase in traffic.

“I work from home and I’m on the roads more often than other people in the community who commute to work and back,” Raymond said. “I have concerns about event parking letting out and the overflow of traffic onto Loudon Road. There’s no light at that intersection and people will be taking risky moves to get out of there.”

Some other speakers at the meeting support the project given the projected job growth and tax revenue. Some look forward to the charitable donations to approved non-profits that will be made from casino revenue.

As a charitable gaming operation, 35% of gross revenue from the casino will be sent to approved charities every 10 days.

Government, Not Casinos Should Fund Non-Profits

Even though the casino, if approved, will be donating to charities, one resident recommended that nonprofits not get funds from gambling, but from city and state government.

I am entirely disappointed that we have legislation that allows casinos. We’re better than this,” Tim Robson said. “We shouldn’t be funding charities and support services that should be paid for by regular taxes. It’s corrupting and it’s a regressive taxation system.”

Under current plans, the casino’s first phase, which was given conditional approval in January, is to include a 24,000 square-foot gaming room. It would have 634 seats and an 8,500 square-foot restaurant and brew-pub. The bar and eatery would be able to seat as many as 150 guests. A future phase would include a hotel and event center.

Previously, Planning Board members recommended more plantings, grasses, and trees to be placed on the proposed casino grounds.

There were so many residents wanting to speak on Wednesday that the Planning Board extended the public hearing to March 15.

At the next hearing, town officials will discuss access to the casino complex for emergency vehicles.

Concord is some 58 miles southeast of Lebanon, where another New Hampshire charitable casino has been proposed.