Concord Casino rental fees cut charitable donations in half

Initially, partnering with Concord Casino to receive payments from charitable gambling proceeds made sense to Patrice Rush and members of the Friends of the Merrimack River Greenway Trail.

The nonprofit needed money to support its ongoing projects to build trails across the city, near the site of the Concord Casino. Furthermore, casino operator, Andy Sanborn, was actively pursuing ambitious expansion plans, including the construction of another larger casino within the city.

“We’ll start with them, and as they grow, maybe the money we can get from them will grow as well,” Rush explained.

However, a closer look at the numbers from public records reveals that organizations that partnered with Concord Casino ended up receiving payouts well below the minimum percentage mandated by state laws.

Under the state’s charitable gaming model, casinos are mandated to allocate 35% of their revenue during gaming dates to the relevant nonprofit.

In January 2023, the Friends of the Merrimack River Greenway Trail was in line to receive proceeds from a 10-day run at the Concord Casino. During that period, Concord Casino generated total revenue of $35,991. A 35% payout set by gaming regulations would equate to $12,596. However, Sanborn collected half that amount in rent, kept $6,275 for himself, and ultimately left $6,321 to the nonprofit, according to public records from the Lottery Commission.

It’s a pattern that was repeated with every organization that received money, including Family Promise of Greater Concord, American Legion Post 21, Bow Community Mens Club, Concord Lions Club, and Concord Lacrosse Boosters Club, to name a few. In each case, Sanborn collected half the total amount in rent.

These rental fees remain within the confines of New Hampshire’s charitable gaming laws, but Sanborn Casino charges one of the highest fees compared to other establishments throughout the state.

Even if charities feel the practice is unfair, they can still receive some money rather than receiving nothing if they withdraw.

“It’s obviously very expensive to participate in Concord Casino,” Rush said. “Knowing what I know now, it’s something we probably have to look into because who knows if Concord Casino will be there next year.”

State officials deemed Sanborn unfit to operate a casino in the state and plan to revoke his license to operate any gambling establishment after an investigation found he used coronavirus relief funds for lavish personal expenses. This investigation did not mention his ongoing practice of withdrawing donations intended for charities in the form of rent payments.

Fees add up

Casinos with more table games, such as The Brook Casino, a sprawling 90,000-square-foot casino in Seabrook, charge lower rental fees than Concord Casino.

However, the Lottery Commission does not establish a fixed rental fee structure across all these institutions.

Rental fees for charities at The Brook are $375 per day, while The River and Casino Bar in Nashua charges $600, and The Moose Casino and Tavern in Nashua charges $375. Wonder Casino in Keene charges charity fees between $375 and $750 per day.

Retain portions of proceeds as rent increases. Concord Casino takes in annual revenue of about $1 million, according to a Concord Monitor analysis of the state’s gambling industry growth. During the first half of this year, Sanborn kept about $80,000, which could have gone to charities had he paid the full 35%.

In response to the large rental fees charged to nonprofits by the state’s 14 casinos, Rep. Michael Cahill, a Newmarket Democrat, pledged to support a bill aimed at eliminating a provision that allows gaming establishments to charge such fees to charitable organizations.

“Charities were the pretext that allowed the casino legislation to pass,” said Rep. Cahill. “Operators’ expenses are not increased by the presence of charities. Some customers are there because of their support of a particular organisation.

Despite state regulations that state that charitable casino rental agreements must be a flat fee to cover the casino’s overhead costs of hosting games, Concord Casino adjusts rental rates as percentages based on revenue generated during play dates.

For example, the Concord Lacrosse Boosters have a $750 per game day rental agreement. However, during a 10-day period this year, the organization was charged a rental fee of $219 per game day because casino revenue was less than the amount the nonprofit would have ultimately paid in rent.

During this 10-day period, Concord Casino took in $4,385. The Lacrosse Booster Club paid Sanborn $2,190 in rent and received $2,195 in donations.

If the Concord Lacrosse Boosters had been billed the agreed upon amount of $750 per day, they would have ended up owing Sanborn more than $3,000.

Nonprofits are willing to participate in the charitable gaming business model, despite its flaws, because the money they receive through this channel is additional resources they would not have otherwise, even if the amounts are not always large.

Several non-profit organizations have also reported that they are facing waiting lists at other casinos, with Concord Casino being the only organization willing to accommodate them.

“Six thousand dollars in the grand scheme of things isn’t a lot of money, but it’s still something,” Rush said. “We didn’t really have any expectations.”

Over the years, Concord Casino generated revenue of $1.1 million in 2021, $985,302 in 2022, and $537,026 in the first half of 2023, according to public records.

Sanborn’s financial record

As Andy Sanborn awaits a public hearing with the New Hampshire Lottery Commission to defend his casino license and operating privileges following a joint investigation by the Lottery Commission and the Attorney General’s Office, which found him unfit for charitable gaming due to fraudulent use of COVID-19 relief funds, History reveals Another case occurred when he withheld money owed to others.

In 2004, Sanborn filed for bankruptcy for his bike shop, Banagan Bicycle Company, which had branches in Concord, Keene and Lebanon. The move left many traders without the money they were owed.

Court documents list his wife, Lori Sanborn, and several LLCs owned by Andy Sanborn as creditors. However, when the case was finally settled in 2009, with claims of more than $700,000 from suppliers and dealers, only $113,599 was distributed after the assets were liquidated.

As a result, many of these companies received a fraction of what they were owed.

For example, the Burton snowboard manufacturer received $12,647, or just 5.3% of its $234,926 claim, according to court records.

Payments of $2,500 were made to both Sanborn companies, The Best Revenge LLC and The Living LLC. Best Revenge LLC, founded in December 1997, shares the same address as Concord Casino and Draft Bar and Grill.

After an investigation, the Lottery Commission and the Attorney General’s Office said Sanborn used coronavirus relief funds for his own financial gain, including lavish race car purchases for himself and his wife, who serves as a state representative. He also received personal payments disguised as rent, which equated to 27 years of real estate payments from Concord Casino to Draft, both owned by Sanborn.

On top of all that, state authorities said casinos are not eligible for such assistance.

Sanborn tried to get around this by omitting any mention of his company’s registered trade name, “Concord Casino,” on his loan application. Instead, the business was classified as “diversified,” as revealed by both the Lottery Commission and the Attorney General’s investigation report. His filing with the New Hampshire Secretary of State indicates the purpose of the business is “to own and operate real estate” and “repair automobile exhaust systems.” The registration does not mention casinos or gambling.

In an email to other media outlets, Andy Sanborn said he was innocent of all wrongdoing.

“Throughout the process, we conducted due diligence to ensure compliance with all application requirements and criteria,” he said in an email to NHPR. “Although I strongly disagree with the committee’s statements, I welcome the upcoming examination, and I have full confidence that our actions were transparent and fully consistent with the law.”

(tags for translation) Concord NH

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