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Sanborn Craps Out, Loses Casino License

Andy Sanborn’s luck has run out.

After finding Sanborn lied on his application for $844,000 in COVID relief money and then used that cash to pay himself $240,000 and buy sports cars, hearing officer Michael King ordered Sanborn to sell his Concord Casino business.

King is the independent hearing officer who presided over the administrative rules hearing regarding complaints brought by the New Hampshire Lottery Commission against Sanborn, a former GOP state senator and one-time candidate for Congress.

“The misrepresentations on the EIDL [Economic Injury Disaster Loan] application and the subsequent use of the proceeds for expenditures not allowed by that loan constitute ‘conduct by the licensee that undermines the public confidence in charitable gaming,’” King wrote in an order released Thursday.  

Sanborn’s casino license is now suspended for six months, during which time he must find a buyer who can pass the New Hampshire Lottery Commission’s background check. If no suitable buyer is found in that time, the license will be revoked.

Testimony from this month’s hearing and evidence filed in the case revealed Sanborn tried to hide the fact from the federal government that his EIDL loan was going to a casino business. Casinos were not eligible for the EIDL program.

Sanborn and loan consultant Michael Evans listed the business as “Win Win Win LLC” and did not use the trade name “Concord Casino,” King noted in his order. The pair also claimed the business engaged in “miscellaneous services” and not that it was a “charitable gaming facility,” according to King.

When Sanborn started getting the COVID money, he had a little more than $900 in his business bank account, according to King. Within a couple of weeks, Sanborn started buying. According to the evidence, he bought a pair of Porsches, a Ferrari for his wife, state Rep. Laurie Sanborn (R-Bedford), and expensive car parts.

Those purchases would be listed as business equipment in Win Win Win’s financial statements, according to the review.

Further, Sanborn paid himself $240,000 in rent between January and August 2022 for the casino’s Main Street space in Concord. 

Sanborn owns the building housing the casino through a different LLC called The Best Revenge LLC. While the original lease agreement between Win Win Win and The Best Revenge is for a $500 a month lease, Sanborn was making payments to himself ranging from $10,000 to $30,000 a month for rent, according to the evidence. 

Sanborn claimed the 40-fold rent increase was due to his casino floor space increasing six and a half percent. While it was alleged Sanborn was diverting COVID money to himself through rent, King found Sanborn’s high rental payments to himself started in 2021 before he received any COVID cash.

Sanborn started making payments in November 2021, ranging from $5,000 to $22,000. Those payments were seen as “wildly excessive” by the state.

The decision ends Sanborn’s second act as a casino owner. He was in the process of developing a larger casino in Concord when the state alleged he had fraudulently obtained the COVID money.

Sanborn has 15 days to appeal King’s decision, though he might have other legal concerns. The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office and the United States Attorney’s Office are now looking into Andy and Laurie Sanborn. The pair are the subject of an investigation by the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Unit.

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.

State Accuses Sanborn of Stalling in His COVID Fraud Case

Former state Sen. Andy Sanborn said he is eager to defend against accusations he used his Concord Casino to engage in COVID relief fraud.

Just not yet.

“We are very much looking forward to meeting these allegations head-on in a fair proceeding … but not in a rigged proceeding,” said Zachary Hafer, one of Sanborn’s lawyers.

Merrimack Superior Court Judge Amy Ignatius

Hafer appeared in Merrimack Superior Court on Monday to ask Judge Amy Ignatius for an order forcing the New Hampshire Lottery Commission to treat his client fairly.

Sanborn was not in court. Hafer said Sanborn was dealing with serious medical issues. 

Sanborn isn’t actually due in any court – yet — over charges he misused $844,000 in COVID relief funds to buy himself two Porsches and a Ferrari for his wife, state Rep. Laurie Sanborn (R-Bedford), among other accusations. New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella has opened a criminal investigation into the alleged fraud, and he has referred the case to the United States Attorney’s Office.

While Sanborn has not been charged with any crime, he still faces the loss of his casino license over the allegations. Sanborn was scheduled for an Oct. 13 hearing before the New Hampshire Lottery Commission after Formella declared Sanborn was “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.”

But Sanborn and his team have stalled, making demands about the evidence, the rules of the hearing, even who the presiding officer will be, said the attorney representing the Lottery Commission, Assistant Attorney General Christine Wilson.

“We’ve offered them pretty much everything they want. I think they’re trying to drag out this process,” Wilson said.

On Oct. 12, Sanborn’s legal team got a temporary court injunction to stop the Oct. 13 hearing, claiming they did not have enough time to mount a proper defense and requesting a delay until Dec. 3. On Monday, Hafer and his team requested an additional delay to Dec 11.

Wilson said pushing the decision on Sanborn’s license to next year could be a net positive for the embattled owner.

“Running out the clock is a real possibility,” Wilson said.

Sanborn’s casino license expires on Dec. 31, as a matter of course. Wilson said that allowing it to expire without getting revoked could make it easier for Sanborn to transfer ownership.

Hafer took umbrage at the suggestion that he and his team are stalling.

“The idea we’re operating in bad faith and trying to run out the clock is nonsense,” Hafer said.

Judge Ignatius seemed skeptical that there was a role for her in this drama. The casino industry already has a body for complaints, rulings, and appeals — the Lottery Commission. 

“Why is this in the superior court?” Ignatius asked.

Hafer argued court intervention was needed because the Lottery Commission is playing games like “heads we win, tails you lose.” He said he wants Igantius to order the Lottery Commission hearing for December, require the Lottery Commission to follow one set of fair administrative rules, pick a fair, qualified independent professional to oversee the hearing and prohibit any surprises from the commission.

The commission initially said it would not call witnesses for the Oct. 13 hearing but then gave Hafer and his team three different sets of witness lists. The commission also gave inconclusive answers when asked about the burden of proof that will be used at the hearing. The burden of proof being on the plaintiff or on the defendant depends on which set of administrative hearing rules are used, and the commission indicated it would use different sets of rules at different points, Hafer claimed.

Wilson acknowledged the commission could have handled things better. “Nobody is saying the process and how we got here is perfect,” Wilson said.

Hafer also worried the commission would bring up old accusations against Sanborn as part of the hearing on his license.

Sanborn’s history includes accusations of stiffing creditors in a 2000s business bankruptcy case. There is also a history of sexual harassment allegations from his time as a state senator, which resulted in a New Hampshire Department of Justice investigation. Sanborn was cleared in 2018 of bribing a Senate intern in connection to those allegations.

As for the current accusation, the commission and the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office aren’t professional accountants, Hafer said. The state investigation is riddled with errors and is based on incomplete and unaudited financial records.

“At best, this investigation was sloppy. At best,” Hafer said.

Ignatius said she would release a written order laying out the role she sees for the court in this dispute, but she made it clear that her goal is to get this case “back in the hands of the Lottery Commission.”

Fox, Meet Hen House? Casino Owner Tapped to Chair Charitable Gaming Commission

Is the state’s new commission studying the charitable gaming industry dealing from the bottom of the deck?

The new state budget that took effect in July created the Commission To Study The Effect Of Recent Changes Made To Charitable Gaming Laws, which held its first meeting Monday morning. Eyebrows were raised when the commission picked Rep. Laurie Sanborn (R-Bedford) as its chair, despite her and her husband operating the Concord Casino since 2018.

“I think Laurie’s a lovely person, but I don’t think she’s the right person to lead this commission,” commission member Sen. Lou D’Allesandro (D-Manchester) told NHJournal. Though he could not attend its first meeting, he said he urged other members to take actions that would be viewed as fair and transparent to the public.

“It should not be chaired by a player in the gaming industry,” D’Allesandro said.

Unlike nearly every New Hampshire state government public hearing, the commission’s meeting was not broadcast on streaming video.

Sanborn did not respond to a request for comment.

Commission member Rep. Fred Doucette (R-Salem) nominated Sanborn for the chair. She sees no problem overseeing a commission that is expected to propose changes to the gambling industry, even with her stake in the casino.

“Anything can seem like a conflict of interest depending on how you look at it,” Doucette said.

He said Sanborn brings an insider’s perspective about the casino business to her role, which will be an asset to the commission. Other legislative committees and commissions include members and chairs involved in the industries they oversee, he said.

“We’re a volunteer legislature, and we have to draw from the knowledge and expertise we have at hand,” Doucette said.

Sen. Tim Lang (R-Sanborton), another commission member, told NHJournal that Sanborn declared her conflict before being nominated, as House rules require. Lang said Sanborn got on the commission in the first place because House Speaker Sherman Packard (R-Londonderry) appointed her.

“The speaker knew Laurie’s background and chose to appoint her to the commission,” Lang said.

Packard did not respond to a request for comment.

Other members of the commission:

  • Attorney General John Formella
  • Rep. John Janigian (R-Salem)
  • Rep. Benjamin Baroody (D-Manchester)
  • Rep. Richard Ames (D-Jaffrey)
  • NH Lottery Director Charles McIntyre
  • Aaron Gomes, COO Peninsula Pacific Entertainment
  • Norman Roberge, treasurer of the Concord Lions Club
  • Giovanna Bonilla, director of events and partnerships with the Boston Billiards Club and Casino

New Hampshire allows casinos under its charitable gaming rules which limits how much players can bet and requires casinos to donate 35 percent of the house take to New Hampshire charities. The state keeps 10 percent of the revenue.

The state raised the limit on maximum single-play bets from $10 to $50 in this year’s budget as part of legislation that created the study commission. The commission will look at issues that could impact casino operations and how much charitable groups can expect in donations.

And because state revenues are at stake, some people who attended Monday’s meeting raised questions about who, if anyone, would be advocating on behalf of the taxpayers.

“I saw the casinos and I saw the charities, this is their commission. But where were the taxpayers? ” one person in attendance who asked to speak on background told NHJournal.

The commission is also expected to review the rent charities pay to the operators’ establishments that house them. This rent payment can lower the charity’s take, reducing the amount of charitable donations. Concord Casino is located in The Draft Sports Bar, also owned by the Sanborns. According to records filed with the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s Office, the Draft and Concord Casino are separate business entities.

The commission is also tasked with studying how licenses are issued in the state. The commission could recommend limiting new licenses in municipalities where there are already casinos. Andy Sanborn recently won approval from the city of Concord for a new, large-scale, 43,000-square-foot casino, called Image Casino, to be located at the end of Loudon Road.

Former Rep. Edward “Ned” Gordon (R-Bristol), who still chairs the Legislative Ethics Committee, would not comment on Sanborn’s chairmanship. The Legislative Ethics Committee only gets involved in issues where a complaint is filed.

“The Ethics Committee is not a police force,” he said.

New Hampshire has different ethical standards for different types of officials. For example, someone in the executive branch is barred from overseeing an industry in which they or a spouse has a financial interest. And under rules for the judiciary, judges must recuse themselves from cases in which they or their spouses could benefit.

However, Laurie Sanborn’s leadership of the study commission does not necessarily violate House rules for legislators. The rules require legislators to file a declaration of intent when there is a conflict of interest. Those declarations must state the nature of the conflict and whether or not the lawmaker plans to vote anyway. Declarations can also be made verbally at meetings.

D’Allesandro said the current standard simply is not good enough.

“If your husband owns a casino, or you and your husband own a casino, that’s a conflict of interest,” D’Allesandro said.

Gordon tried and failed to get the conflict of interest rules changed for legislators. He sponsored 2020’s HB 1694, which would have forced legislators to recuse themselves where there is a conflict of interest similar to the Sanborn’s. Gordon’s bill died in the Senate.

The Image Casino proposal is now the subject of a lawsuit. A dozen city residents filed an appeal in the Merrimack Superior Court of the city Planning Board’s approval for the casino. The appeal claims the Planning Board voted to approve the project without proper public notice.