Concord planning board approves new casino zoning

Concord City Hall

Concord City Hall

Andy Sanborn, former state senator and owner of Draft Sports Bar & Grill and the Concord Casino, a small-scale charitable gaming operation in downtown Concord, has proposed a 43,000-square-foot casino, bar and hotel on the city's east side.

Andy Sanborn, former state senator and owner of Draft Sports Bar & Grill and the Concord Casino, a small-scale charitable gaming operation in downtown Concord, has proposed a 43,000-square-foot casino, bar and hotel on the city's east side.

By DAVID BROOKS

Monitor staff

Published: 05-17-2024 12:29 PM

Modified: 05-20-2024 3:18 PM


A proposal to limit casinos in Concord to fewer locations while the city writes new laws to control their use got approval Wednesday from the Planning Board and will go before the public in July before the City Council decides what to do.

The proposed change in city ordinance would have no impact on the existing Concord Casino, operated by Andy Sanborn on South Main Street, currently closed, as well as on Sanborn's plans to build a larger casino on  Break O’ Day Drive off Loudon Road because both of those pre-date any change to the city ordinance.

Concord Casino was ordered to close its doors and complete its sale within six months, beginning Jan. 1 or risk a two-year license revocation after Sanborn was found unsuitable for the state’s charitable gaming model by a joint investigation conducted by the New Hampshire Lottery Commission and the Attorney General’s office.

He was found to have fraudulently applied for and received $844,000 in pandemic relief funds, which were intended for struggling small businesses, not casinos.

As explained by Tim Thompson, assistant director of community development, the current city ordinance defines charitable gaming facilities as “commercial indoor recreation facilities” and are allowed in much of Concord.

“Those are permitted in a variety of different zoning districts that are not necessarily conducive to this kind of activity taking place,” he told the board at Wednesday’s meeting.

The proposed new ordinance would not allow casinos to be created as a principle use but would allow them as an accessory use in several districts, all of which currently have churches or non-profit organizations that have traditionally held fund-raising events such as bingo, he said. They could not be a full-time or stand-alone casino.

The Planning Board’s decision was needed as part of the process of altering ordinances involving zoning. A public hearing has been set for July 8 on the issue, after which the City Council may take action.

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Thompson said the state lottery commission has examined the proposed ordinance.

In response to a question he noted that the city could not just ban all casinos: “We are a home-rule state, which means that municipalities are only permitted to do that which the legislation authorizes us to do,” he said. Because New Hampshire has a state law allowing charitable gaming, “we are pre-empted from prohibiting the use, but can regulate it,” he said.

Reporter Sruthi Gopalakrishnan contributed to this article.