A look inside the shifting business dealings of NH casino operator accused of misusing COVID loan

Laurie and Andy Sanborn own The Draft Sports Bar and Grill and Concord Casino located on South Main Street in Concord, New Hampshire.

Laurie and Andy Sanborn own The Draft Sports Bar and Grill and Concord Casino located on South Main Street in Concord, New Hampshire. Concord Monitor — GEOFF FORESTER


Concord Monitor

Published: 09-05-2023 6:52 PM

Former state senator and Concord Casino owner Andy Sanborn, now under criminal investigation for using COVID relief funds to pay for his extravagant lifestyle, has faced mounting scrutiny and criticism for his dealings inside the casino and his efforts to vastly expand his gambling operations.

A Concord Monitor analysis of incident reports from the N.H. Lottery Commission revealed a range of complaints and issues at the Concord Casino, which is located on South Main Street in the same building as the Draft Sports Bar, also owned by Sanborn. Issues included inaccurate prize payouts, discrepancies in charity donations, problems with surveillance camera functionality and dealer errors in table games.

The Monitor has acquired these records by submitting a Right to Know request to the lottery commission and is presently waiting to receive the remaining records, which are expected next week.

During a routine inspection at the Lakes Region Casino, a man who had previously played in a poker tournament at the Concord Casino said the advertised prize of approximately $700 to be split by the winners was not given as promised. Instead, Sanborn informed him and the other winners that the prize to be divided was only $300.

When the on-site Gaming Enforcement Officer Rachel Brayman asked him to file a formal incident report, he wished to stay anonymous due to “his fear of Sanborn’s anger and threats” in the past.

Concerns were also lodged about Concord Casino’s surveillance cameras. Inspection visits from the Lottery Commission officials have repeatedly noted concerns about incorrect time stamps shown on the surveillance footage.

Under state rules, charitable gaming establishments are required to allocate 35% of their revenue to charities and 10% to the state Lottery Commission.

Yet charities that partner with these casinos are required to pay rent for each day they are scheduled to receive a portion of the winnings. At the Concord Casino, charities are charged $500 to $750 per night, even though the casino pays $500 a month in rent to the Draft Sports Bar.

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During an inspection in August, when officials from the lottery commission asked about the rental process, one of the Concord Casino’s primary gaming operators stated that fees vary depending on the total revenue generated during a charity’s scheduled period, which typically lasts seven to 10 days. It was further clarified that Sanborn determines the rent for each charity.

Another inspection record said the casino had violated gaming laws by not awarding the prize to a winner in accordance with regulations. Casinos are required to pay a prize exceeding $500 in the form of a check. But among the three players who each won $709, only two received checks, while the third player was paid in cash.

Apart from these issues, the reports highlighted security problems related to the handling of cash, a failure to conduct dual counts and instances where the casino deducted funds from the prize pool to refund a player who no longer wished to participate in a game.

Complaints and problems found during inspections are investigated by the Lottery Commission for all of the state’s 14 casinos, which are officially called charitable gaming halls. Yet the legal trouble for Sanborn dramatically increased last week.

On Thursday, the state Lottery Commission and Attorney General’s Office announced that Sanborn fraudulently obtained an Economic Injury Disaster Loan meant for struggling small businesses and spent portions of the $844,000 on lavish personal expenses, including buying two Porsche race cars for himself and a Ferrari for his wife, State Rep. Laurie Sanborn. In addition, authorities say the money was fraudulently obtained since casinos like his were ineligible for such funds, state investigators said.

Sanborn got around that by concealing the registered trade name “Concord Casino” on the SBA application, using the name “Win Win Win LLC” instead and listing the business activity as “miscellaneous.” He used $163,000 of the money to make payments to himself under the pretense of rent between the Concord Casino and the Draft Sports Bar, which equaled 27 years of prepaid rent payments, investigators said.

The Lottery Commission and Attorney General are moving to immediately revoke his charitable gaming licenses and prevent him or any associate from obtaining a new license for an indefinite amount of time. In addition, the Attorney General’s office has opened a criminal investigation into his spending of COVID funds and referred the matter to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for additional criminal investigation.

Win Win Win

While Sanborn was under investigation by the Lottery Commission and Attorney General’s Office, he and Laurie Sanborn sought to expand their gambling enterprise in Concord.

Sanborn first went before the planning board in September to unveil his new project –— a 43,000-square-foot casino and entertainment venue on the city’s east side. The first phase of the project, which was granted conditional approval in June, would include a 24,000-square-foot gaming room and an 8,500-square-foot restaurant. Residents begged city planners not to approve it.

Situated near the intersection of Loudon and Sheep Davis roads and close to Interstate 393, Sanborn emphasized the economic impact it would have on the community in the form of job opportunities and revenue. But during public hearings held between December and February, residents expressed concern for the city’s image, the impact on emergency services, traffic, poverty and the increase in crime, including theft, drug use, prostitution and sex trafficking.

The Sanborns said they wanted to give back to the community.

“As we see in other New Hampshire communities, we have an opportunity to make a material, positive financial impact with upwards of 72 local charitable organizations, of which real good can come,” Andy and Laurie Sanborn wrote in their application to the city of Concord for the new casino on Break O’ Day Drive off Loudon Road.

In March, public safety officials brought concerns to the board over the impact on city services, and Concord Police Chief Bradly Osgood said the proposed venue would add significant traffic to the area.

As a result, City Planner Heather Shank requested the Sanborns submit a detailed emergency services assessment, which Sanborn and his team failed to provide. Without notice at the June meeting, Sanborn provided a one-page report that did not contain site-specific estimates and projects regarding the potential demand of police, fire and emergency medical services and did not review the suggested comparable venues provided by the board.

At the same meeting, Sanborn surprised the planning board and demanded a vote. The board had previously notified the public that a public hearing would not be held, nor a decision made, and said they felt uncomfortable moving forward with a decision without public input.

“I have worked very hard to give you everything you’ve asked for, and this is the third month in a row we’re here tonight debating what the numbers are,” Sanborn said. “This is not part of the planning board’s process and you said, by the next meeting, you wanted to see this information.”

Sanborn gave them an ultimatum — approve or deny — and a 4-2 vote approved the application.

Displeased and angry, several residents are appealing the board’s decision in Merrimack County Superior Court, arguing that they would have attended the meeting had they been aware the application would be heard before the board. If a judge agrees with their lawsuit, the application will be remanded back to the planning board and the decision annulled.

Much of the process took place while Sanborn was under investigation by state authorities, who began their probe on Jan. 3 and concluded on Aug. 18.

The investigation revealed Sanborn wrongly used his COVID money to pay consultants for his new casino application, including $14,600 to Geotechnical Services of Weare and $14,206 to TF Moran of Bedford. Sanborn reported the expenditures as necessary business expenses related to his existing charitable gaming operations, according to the Lottery Commission and Attorney General’s Office.

In the wake of the criminal investigation into Sanborn’s use of emergency small business funding to support his lavish lifestyle, the city is reconsidering the approval of the casino application on its own.

“The city is currently evaluating the impact of the Attorney General’s decision upon the Planning Board’s decision,” wrote Concord spokesperson Stefanie Breton Thursday afternoon.

Business filings

Andy Sanborn is the head of multiple limited liability companies responsible for overseeing the business enterprises of the Bedford couple, according to public documents on file with the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office.

While his wife, Laurie Sanborn, is not listed as the manager or owner of most of these companies, reports from the lottery commission show that she is one of the primary gaming operators at the Concord Casino.

His businesses related to casinos include:

■Win Win Win LLC, which was established in August 2018, owns and operates the Concord Casino on 67 South Main.

■The Draft LLC, established in January 2006, owns the Draft Bar and Grill, which houses the Concord Casino.

■Imagine Casino LLC, established in October 2022, is the entity overseeing the development of the new casino project on Loudon Road in Concord.

■The Best Revenge LLC, established in December 1997, also shares the same address as the Concord Casino and Draft Bar and Grill.

But his business dealings are often further obscured. His limited liability company, Win Win Win LLC, which owns Concord Casino, is categorized as “Other/Owning & Operating Real Estate” and “Automotive Exhaust System Repair.”

Similarly, another casino project that the Sanborns have in the works for Concord, managed under The Imagine LLC, falls under the industry classification of “Other/Owning & Operating Real Estate.”

A second company associated with the establishment of a new charitable gaming facility under the ownership of Concord Commitment LLC was established in December 2021 with the classification of a real estate, rental and leasing business.

Sanborn has other businesses, including Dagan Motorcars LLC, which helps buyers find “high-quality used executive and exotic sports cars.”

Laurie Sanborn has several businesses of her own, including Charity Consulting LLC, which was created in April 2021, and Cerberus Motorsports LLC, which was established in March 2021.

Following Thursday’s announcement of the criminal investigation into her husband’s spending of the federal funds he received between 2021 and early 2022, Laurie Sanborn resigned from her position as the chair of the 13-member committee tasked with examining the state’s charitable gaming laws and assessing the benefits to charities, House Speaker Sherman Packard announced Friday.

“Given its importance, I feel it was appropriate for Rep. Sanborn to resign as Chair of the Commission to Study the Effect of Recent Changes Made to the Charitable Gaming Laws at this time, so there will be no distractions from the good work they intend to do,” said Packard.

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

“Throughout the process, we did our due diligence to ensure compliance with all application requirements and standards,” he said in an email to NHPR. “While I strongly disagree with the commission’s statements, I welcome the examination ahead, as I have full confidence our actions were transparent and in complete accordance of the law.”

The state’s Attorney General’s Office sees it differently.

“This case highlights the importance of law enforcement’s role in keeping illegal activity out of New Hampshire’s charitable gaming industry,” Attorney General John Formella said in a statement. “Our obligation to protect the public demands that we take action against any person who is found to have used their regulated casino to enrich themselves with fraudulently obtained taxpayer funds.”