Owner of downtown Concord Casino proposes larger gambling venue on city’s east side
Former state senator and Concord businessman Andy Sanborn hopes to build a new 43,000-square-foot casino and entertainment venue on the city’s east side that will bring jobs and revenue to the city, he told planning board members Wednesday night.
The first phase of the project would be a 24,000-square-foot gaming room with 634 seats and 8,500-square-foot restaurant and brew-pub that could hold up to 150 diners. The new building would be located near the intersection of Loudon and Sheep Davis roads and close to Interstate 393 off a small street named Break O’Day Drive. Future plans call for a hotel and event center.
Sanborn owns the Draft Sports Bar & Grill and the Concord Casino, a small-scale charitable gaming establishment in downtown Concord. He decided to move forward with this project largely due to the success of his current business. He said it would create a new gateway on the city’s east side while giving back to charity, per state law.
“The way that New Hampshire has established the ability to help us raise money for charitable causes is really, really cool and we are just getting great satisfaction out of doing it,” Sanborn said Thursday. “We are traditional New Hampshire Yankee people who love everything that makes New Hampshire, New Hampshire. We want to pay homage to who we are as a people and this is a way to aesthetically celebrate that.”
As part of state law, charitable gaming centers and casinos are required to donate 35% of gross revenue to specific charities every 10 days.
“It is the expectation that the local charities may receive upwards of a five-figure yearly sum, which would yield a total charitable value in the tens of millions of dollars,” wrote Nicholas Golon, one of the project designers at TFMoran. “A facility such as the proposed would become the largest fundraiser for local charitable organizations in the county.”
Sanborn said he would double the number of charities receiving money from 36 to 72. Charities could include little league sports, veteran services, domestic violence shelters, animal shelters, homelessness, addiction services and more in the Concord area, Sanborn said.
“We are still looking for charities to be involved in this and we have open slots for non-profits,” he continued.
Additionally, the establishment will employ over 250 people and bring more visitors to the east side of the city.
“This will take pressure off municipal and city budgets and allow us to continue to help the community and that’s an important aspect,” Sanborn said. “People won’t have to go to their local government body for a handout as much because this will truly provide services.”
Sanborn expects to be back before the planning board at their next meeting in October to present formal site plans for phase one, which will include the construction of a centralized building featuring metal panels on the side and a brick front with an overhang for vehicles to load and unload and lobby access. The interior of the building will accommodate the casino, a restaurant and bar and a brewery.
Phase two will include a hotel and phase three will include an event center to host weddings, political gatherings, educational meetings, and work events, Sanborn said.
Seeking review from planners on their plan, Sanborn asked board members to comment.
Board member Jeffrey Santacruce suggested the design team look at other developed spaces, like Steeplegate Mall, instead of disturbing undeveloped lots.
“I get what you’re saying about it being the right space but there’s a vacant mall. Have you considered taking that space? It has parking,” Santacruce said.
Sanborn said he reached out to the mall owners to no avail.
“We all are painfully aware of the challenges with the mall and the lack of response everyone is getting,” Sanborn said. “We first approached them well over a year ago and we have tried over and over again. If they’d be responsive, we’d be happy to consider that.”
Sanborn said if the city could assist in making contact with the owners of the mall, he would consider the location.
“I would hate to see us cut into virgin land when there are vacant properties,” Santacruce said.
Additionally, there are challenges with the undeveloped lot on Break O’Day Drive, including steep grades, uneven topography and wetland concerns, Golon said, all of which will be addressed.
“You have to look at the city of Concord, the people of Concord and the State of New Hampshire; what are they getting out of this?” Golon said. “This seems like the right location for this type of use.”
Overall, board members welcomed the proposal.
“The casino meets a lot of the boxes for what they’re trying to do,” said chairman Richard Woodfin. “But I don’t want to see the cheapest buffet around or neon signs with the loosest slots in the city that are typical of other casinos.”
Referencing Tuscan Market in Salem, which features very traditional and modern buildings, Sanborn said he wants to model this location off of that design.
Woodfin and other planners said they look forward to reviewing the formal proposal once submitted.