New Hampshire’s attorney general may believe Andy Sanborn is too corrupt to be in the charitable gaming business, but the former GOP state senator clearly doesn’t agree. Not only did he request a hearing before the state Lottery Commission to challenge the allegations on Monday, but he also nominated himself for two leadership positions in the state’s Charitable Gaming Operators Association.
Secretary, and treasurer.
It’s a bold move for a man accused of misappropriating some $844,000 in pandemic relief tax dollars while operating a casino at his Draft Sports Bar and Grill in Concord, N.H. He owns the business with his wife, Rep. Laurie Sanborn (R-Bedford), who was forced by the scandal to give up her position as chair of the state’s new commission to review charitable gaming practices.
Speaker of the House Sherm Packard (R-Londonderry) replaced her with Salem GOP Rep. Joe Sweeney.
Sanborn is “not suitable to be associated with charitable gaming in New Hampshire due to evidence of COVID-19 relief fraud involving Concord Casino’s charitable gaming business,” according to state Attorney General John Formella. He is pursuing his own criminal investigation, and he’s referred the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
When informed Sanborn had nominated himself to handle the Gaming Operators Association’s money as treasurer, a legislator close to the situation told NHJournal, “He’s got b*lls, you gotta give him that.”
The Charitable Gaming Operators Association of New Hampshire selected its new officers on Monday, all by unanimous vote, and none of them named “Sanborn.”
According to a press release, the organization’s new president is Steve Szapor from the Brook Casino. Aaron Gomes, who also sits on the new review commission, is secretary. And prominent New Hampshire developer Dick Anagnost is treasurer.
While Rep. Sanborn has stepped down from the charitable gaming commission, some Democrats say it’s not enough.
“It was appropriate that Rep. Laurie Sanborn has decided to step away from the commission directly involved in the oversight of charitable gaming,” said House Democratic Leader Matt Wilhelm (D-Manchester). “However, she remains the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, where members will resume work on retained bills specific to charitable gaming this month. I have asked that Speaker Packard remove her from her leadership position on the Ways and Means Committee to salvage public trust in our legislative process.”
Bedford Town Councilor Michael Strand, a Democrat who represents some of the same constituents as Rep. Sanborn, says he’s been shocked by the developments in this story.
“While they are certainly legally entitled to fight the case and defend themselves to the fullest extent of the law, the idea that [Andy] Sanborn would nominate himself for an officer’s position in the NH Charitable Gaming Operators Association is as crass as it is incredulous,” Strand said.
He has also called the corruption allegations against the Sanborns “serious and egregious in nature.”
“If these allegations are true, Representative Sanborn must resign from her elected position immediately and retire from any active career in public service. Serious questions must now be asked about both her and her husband’s voting record during their time in the statehouse and senate and any conflicts of interest uncovered. The public trust must be restored.”
When he announced the charges against Andy Sanborn, Formella — who also sits on the new charitable gaming commission — made it clear he takes them very seriously.
“This case highlights the importance of law enforcement’s role in keeping illegal activity out of New Hampshire’s charitable gaming industry,” Formella said. “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.”
Not surprisingly, the charitable gaming industry is hoping the story will blow over and the commission can do its work of reviewing the state of charitable gaming in the Granite State. At the same time, industry members and legislators acknowledge that appointing Rep. Sanborn as chair was a mistake and that the make up of the board — dominated by people who benefit from the charitable gaming industry — may need to be reviewed.
Sweeney says he’s ready to get to work.
“I am excited to join this Commission and get to work on reviewing recent changes made to our Charitable Gaming Laws,” Sweeney said after his appointment. “The expansion of Charitable Gaming has been a tremendous benefit for charities and community organizations in New Hampshire, and this thorough review of our laws will ensure our charities and operators are in the best position possible to succeed. A strong and vibrant charitable gaming industry in New Hampshire is a win for all Granite Staters.”
No date has been set for the Lottery Commission review requested by Sanborn.