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Viva New Hampshire: Secret Casino Applications and Horse Racing Slot Machines

No one knows who is about to win big with casino licenses, including lucrative Historic Horse Racing, but that didn’t stop the House Ways and Means Committee from making it rain. 

Public documents obtained by NHJournal point to well-known developers involved in a new casino project in Salem. There are links between the Salem casino proposal and Tuscan Village developer Joe Faro, as well as to the family behind Sal’s Pizza. The question is, are they going to benefit from Historic Horse Racing?

The Ways and Means Committee pushed through SB 112 last week, which extends the moratorium on new Historic Horse Racing licenses but adds a carve-out for any pending license currently under consideration by the New Hampshire Lottery Commission.

Without the bill, the moratorium is set to sunset next summer, potentially opening up Historic Horse Racing across the state. If the bill passes, Historic Horse Racing would be limited to already licensed casinos and the five pending casino applicants. There are currently 14 licensed casinos in the state, though not all of them have Historic Horse Racing.

The amendment, proposed by Rep. Fred Doucette (R-Salem), allows any application brought to the Lottery Commission between January and October of this year to be eligible for licenses with Historic Horse Racing machines. Five applications are currently pending that meet this timeframe, and no one knows who they are.

New Hampshire Lottery Executive Director Charlie McIntyre isn’t showing his cards. McIntyre said state law prohibits divulging the identities of people applying for casino licenses while their applications are under review. 

“That’s not dissimilar from other licenses across the state,” McIntyre told the committee.

Gov. Chris Sununu opposes the moratorium, but Sen. Tim Lang (R-Sanbornton) told the House Ways and Means Committee last month Sununu would back the amendment that carves out Historic Horse Racing for the pending applications.

Lang told NHJournal he has no idea who is behind the five applications, and he doesn’t want to know. The secrecy protects the applicant and legislators, Lang said.

“We don’t want to be accused of knowing. We’re happy we don’t know,” Lang said.

But Salem Planning Director Jacob LaFontaine told the board last summer he had meetings with a casino group called Aces of Salem LLC that wants to turn the Tuscan Kitchen property at 67 Main Street into a casino.

Salem property records show the site is currently owned by J&S Investments LLC, with a mailing address in Massachusetts. According to New Hampshire Secretary of State records, Joe Faro, the developer behind the Tuscan Village development in Salem, is the registered agent for J&S Investments LLC.

Faro did not respond to a request for comment. 

Aces of Salem LLC lists Michael Lupoli as the manager in its state filing. The LLC was created in 2022. Lupoli is the brother of Sal Lupoli, the man behind Sal’s Pizza. Sal Lupoli turned his pizza chain into a business empire that includes commercial and residential real estate development. 

Michael Lupoli did not respond to questions from NHJournal.

It is not known if the Aces of Salem application is one of the five currently under review by the Lottery Commission. Part of the application process includes a suitability investigation, and McIntyre said releasing identities before suitability investigations are complete could result in unsuccessful applicants having their reputations harmed. He said the public would essentially be told these people were found unsuitable by the Lottery Commission.

Contacted by NHJournal, New Hampshire Lottery Commission spokeswoman Maura McCann said the names of applicants have never been disclosed prior to approval, not even to legislators. McCann said state law is clear about shielding the identities.

“That information has not been disclosed to anyone outside of Lottery, including the legislature,” McCann said. 

While McIntyre maintained those are standard rules for any licensed business in the state, not every business is licensed to make money the way casinos do. Historic Horse Racing, also known as Insta-Racing, is expected to bring in nearly $100 million. Unlike other casino games in New Hampshire, the businesses take the lion’s share. 

Historic Horse Racing machines are essentially slot machines. The machines use the results from thousands of horse races to create a fast-moving betting game. A player puts in their money, and the machine randomly picks a historic race. The bettors, sitting at a terminal resembling a video slot machine, pick horses to win, place, or show. They don’t know the horses’ names or other identifying details about the races. After a quick video depicting a race, the results are displayed. Like slot machines, Historic Horse Racing encourages long sessions of repetitive betting.

And that repeat business is great for the casinos. Under New Hampshire’s charitable gaming scheme, charities get 35 percent of the net revenue from table games (roulette, craps, blackjack, etc.), and the casinos get 65 percent. The state comes in first and takes 10 percent off the gross before anyone else gets a dollar.

But Historic Horse Racing changes the math in favor of the casinos. Casinos collect 75 percent of the HHR gross, and the state gets another 16.25 percent. That leaves charities to make do with just 8.75 percent of the “charitable gaming” cut.

Lang said that before the permanent moratorium voted on by the House Ways and Means Committee, “I brought an amendment that would allow for the incremental growth in the industry, with a four-year moratorium to allow the gaming study commission to do its work and file any recommended changes in the law. I thought that was the right way to have the legislature get involved with the information we needed to make the best decision.

“The House action, however, seems to put the cart before the horse — pun intended,” Lang said.


EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this article mistakenly identified Michael Lupoli as son of Sal Lupoli. Michael is his brother. NHJournal regrets the error.

Sanborn Gambles with Casino Hearing

Casino operator Andy Sanborn wants to take his chances in front of the state Lottery Commission, but his odds aren’t looking good.

The former GOP state senator has decided to publicly challenge charges that he stole COVID relief money and used the cash for sports carts and other luxuries.

Sanborn is set to appear before the New Hampshire Lottery Commission on Oct. 3 to appeal Executive Director Charlie McIntyre’s decision that he is too corrupt to own and operate a casino in the Granite State. Concord recently approved a second casino and a microbrewery, which were part of a planned Sanborn development.

But now the scandal-plagued Republican may lose his license to operate a gambling business altogether.

Sanborn is accused of misappropriating $844,000 in pandemic relief tax dollars while operating a casino at his Draft Sports Bar and Grill, which he owns along with his wife, state Rep. Laurie Sanborn (R-Bedford). The allegations against her business partner forced her to give up her position as chair of the state’s new commission reviewing practices in the charitable gaming industry.

McIntyre sent Sanborn a letter on Aug. 31 laying out the findings of the commission’s investigation. According to a statement released by Attorney General John Formella, Sanborn “fraudulently applied for and received at least one Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), with loan proceeds of $844,000. Further, investigators obtained evidence indicating that after receiving those taxpayer dollars, Mr. Sanborn used them to purchase at least three race cars: two Porsche 987 Cayman S racers for his personal use, and a Ferrari F430 challenge racer as a gift for his wife, Rep. Laurie Sanborn.”

Sanborn also allegedly used COVID money to make 27 years’ worth of prepaid rent payments on another business he owns.

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office are now looking into Sanborn’s practices. According to Formella’s statement, that includes “a review by the Public Integrity Unit of the actions of all of the individuals and entities involved.” That would presumably include Laurie Sanborn.

Andy Sanborn’s checkered political career includes a bribery investigation after he allegedly made a “crude joke” to a Senate intern in 2013. After the joke was made, the exact nature of which has never been revealed, the intern was given a full-time job in the Senate and an envelope with $200 in cash.

Five years later, an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office did not result in any charges, and Sanborn denied any wrongdoing.

“No one in the room was offended by the joke,” Sanborn said in 2018. “No complaint was filed. Case closed. If that’s news, so be it.”

Sanborn threatened a college student in 2014 via email after the student, one of Sanborn’s constituents, sent an email asking Sanborn to support marijuana legalization. A clearly irked Sanborn called the student “a college freshman who just wants to get high at any cost” and implied he would get the student’s scholarship revoked.

“I’m thinking if I call the [organization you received a scholarship from] and ask their opinion on legalization, they may have a different opinion (not to mention may be asking you for their scholarship money back…).” Sanborn wrote.

Sanborn made a failed bid for Congress in 2018 after serving in the state Senate for eight years.