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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.

NH Near Top Of Home Value Rankings–Is That Good News Or Bad?

In a new analysis of home value and purchasing power trends, New Hampshire ranks fourth in the nation, with home values up 6.1 percent in the last year alone.  Compared to the national average of a mere 2.3 percent increase, that’s good news for Granite State homeowners. In fact, some people are asking if the news is too good.

Housing prices are frequently mentioned by workers thinking of relocating to New England, in particular younger workers.  While rising home values can make existing homeowners happy, it makes relocating to New Hampshire that much harder for renters and would-be future buyers.

“We can say all day long that we want young people to move back here, but there is no place for them to live where they would like to live.” That’s the view of Carmen Lorentz, executive director of Lakes Region Community Developers. She told the Laconia Daily Sun: 

“Many of the young and talented workers that we are begging to stay or move to New Hampshire do not want to live in an apartment. Many of them want to own a house – that is part of the New Hampshire lifestyle they envision for themselves.”

And with New Hampshire home prices consistently rising faster than both the New England region and the rest of the nation, it makes that vision harder to realize. In an interview on NHPR last month, Executive Director of the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority Dean Christon, described the NH housing market as “an environment where there’s price pressure and limited inventory of both [housing] up for sale and rental housing.  It affects lower income people more, and it affects people trying to purchase their first home.”

So are rising home values creating a crisis?  Mark Fleming says… not yet. Fleming is Chief Economist for First American Financial Corporation, the company that calculates the Real House Price Index (RHPI) rankings based on income, mortgage rates and an unadjusted house price index.  Fleming told that, while New Hampshire housing prices are up, they still aren’t “back.”

“Our index for New Hampshire is a 68 on a 100 scale, 100 being the purchasing power of a homeowner in the year 2000,” he says.  “In real terms, New Hampshire is still 32 percent away from getting back to their year 2000 levels.”

A key factor in that relative affordability? New Hampshire incomes, which also rose last year. Personal income in the Granite State grew by 3.5 percent—the fastest in New England.

Still, Fleming says, unless something changes, the housing market could start having a negative impact on the rest of the economy by pricing out both young families and the skilled workers employers need. The issue, he says, isn’t on the demand side—even if interest rates doubled, there would still be a net increase in demand, Fleming estimates. It’s on the supply side.  There just aren’t enough housing units being built in New Hampshire for long-term price stability.

Bob Quinn, Vice President of Government Affairs for the NH Association of Realtors. agrees.

“We believe the best long-term solution is increasing housing stock and thereby maintaining our growing economy,” Quinn told  “The most significant impediments to housing from a public policy perspective are restrictive zoning laws. Some communities put up unnecessary obstacles to the development of housing, which increases the cost. We strongly believe in allowing developers to build more densely, therefore accommodating both the desires of home buyers while preserving New Hampshire’s natural resources.”

Data from the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority appears to back this view. Their February 2018 Housing report found:

  • A relatively low inventory of homes for sale, particularly under $300,000
  • Housing permits (reflecting construction activity) of multi-family and single-family homes at half the level they were prior to the Great Recession (end of 2007)

In addition to increased supply, Fleming also urges New Hampshire leaders to promote education in high-skill, high-wage jobs.  “Your region is never going to compete on price,” Fleming says. “But you can encourage young people to pursue the high-wage jobs of the future to pay the housing prices of the future.”

The good news is that New Hampshire’s housing assets continue to increase in value. Perhaps the better news is that, with increased inventory and an educated workforce, New Hampshire has the public policy tools to keep from “valuing” itself into a housing crisis.