Concord Officials Propose Restrictions on Casino Locations Amid Controversy

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The tranquility of Concord, New Hampshire may soon be disrupted by a contentious issue — the city officials have proposed a restricting ordinance which, if passed, would limit the locations casinos can operate. The proposal would also hallmark the onset of a series of additional restrictions that await approval.

The news of this ordinance has garnered ample traction, due to the potential impact on the city’s gaming landscape. The city’s planning board has shown support for these restrictions, marking the first phase in restricting potential locations for casino businesses.

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However, this is not a decision to be made in closed quarters. Slated on July 8 is a public hearing, allowing local residents to voice their views on this controversial topic. The City Council also harbors the option to provide their perspective on the matter.

While the restrictions may seem limiting, it is important to note that the city is not attempting to ban casinos outright. According to Tim Thompson, Concord’s assistant director of community development, as a home-rule state, municipalities can only act within the realms of what legislation permits. Hence, while the city cannot prohibit the use of casinos, they retain the power to regulate it.

Under the state law, New Hampshire allows philanthropic gaming within its communities. This reflects in the restrictions proposed in the ordinance. The new proposal would permit gaming operations in areas within Concord that are viewed as accessory uses. These gaming activities could be part of fundraising events typically held at houses of worship or affiliated nonprofits, and incorporate games such as bingo.

It should be noted that full-time, standalone casinos are not included in the proposal. Any approved casino operations could only occur up to four times a year. Current rules regard charitable gaming facilities in Concord as “commercial indoor recreation facilities,” allowing them to exist in much of the city under existing legislation.

However, there are concerns about the type of activities liable to take place in different zoning districts that are technically not conducive to operating such facilities. Clarity on these regulations is anticipated during the upcoming discourse on the proposal.

Interestingly, the proposed ordinance would not influence either of the two charitable casinos associated with Andy Sanborn, the controversial casino owner. One of these, the Concord Casino, which previously operated from within The Draft Sports Bar and Grill, is currently closed. Sanborn has been instructed to sell his gaming property, which is presently under a suspended license, or face having the license revoked entirely.

Sanborn entered a rough patch after being deemed unfit to hold a charitable casino license post-state hearing that investigated his use of COVID relief funds. He was granted $844K in federal pandemic funds — however, it was later discovered that these funds were improperly applied and misused. Sanborn allegedly spent a substantial portion of the relief money on luxury items, such as two Porsche race cars and a Ferrari for his wife, rather than on his business, officials reported.

Earlier this year, as per the decree from New Hampshire officials, Sanborn was mandated to find a buyer for his business before July 1. There has been minimal progress on this front. Meanwhile, Sanborn’s second proposed casino in Concord remains unopened. Clearly, this tale of casinos, legislation, and the city continues to evolve, as the residents of Concord watch on.

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Melinda Cochrane is a poet, teacher and fiction author. She is also the editor and publisher of The Inspired Heart, a collection of international writers. Melinda also runs a publishing company, Melinda Cochrane International books for aspiring writers, based out Montreal, Quebec. Her publication credits include: The art of poetic inquiry, (Backalong Books), a novella, Desperate Freedom, (Brian Wrixon Books Canada), and 2 collections of poetry; The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat, (Backalong Books), and She’s an Island Poet, Desperate Freedom was on the bestseller's list for one week, and The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat is one of hope and encouragement for all those living in the social welfare system. She’s been published in online magazines such as, (regular writer for) ‘Life as a Human’, and Shannon Grissom’s magazine.