New Hampshire casino to shut down for 6 months, could re-open if sold by owner accused of fraud

December 28, 2023 5:04 PM
  • Holly Ramer, Associated Press
December 28, 2023 5:04 PM
  • Holly Ramer, Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A New Hampshire casino owned by a former state senator accused of buying luxury cars with a fraudulently obtained COVID-19 relief loan will be shut down Jan. 1 but allowed to reopen in six months if sold to a new owner, the state lottery commission said in a decision made public Thursday

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The commission tried in August to permanently revoke Andy Sanborn’s gaming operator’s license, but he appealed the decision and requested a hearing before an independent examiner. That hearing was held earlier this month, and a decision was issued Wednesday.

Sanborn, a Republican from Bedford, owns the Concord Casino within The Draft Sports Bar and Grill in Concord and was seeking to open a much larger charitable gaming venue a few miles away. But the commission argued that his license should be revoked because he improperly obtained federal funds, misrepresented how he spent the money, paid himself large sums as rent and failed to keep accurate records overall.

According to the investigation, Sanborn fraudulently obtained $844,000 in funding from the Small Business Administration between December 2021 and February 2022. Casinos and charitable gaming facilities weren’t eligible for such loans, but Sanborn omitted his business name, “Concord Casino,” from his application and listed his primary business activity as “miscellaneous services,” officials said.

He’s accused of spending $181,000 on two Porsche race cars and $80,000 on a Ferrari for his wife. Sanborn also paid himself more than $183,000 for what he characterized as rent for his Concord properties, investigators said.

In his ruling, hearings examiner Michael King said it was not within his purview to determine if the loan application was fraudulent, but said filing it with “clear false and/or misleading information” was enough to suspend his license because such action “undermines the public confidence in charitable gaming.” He also rejected Sanborn’s claim that the cars were not purchased with the loan, saying there was a “straight line” from the receipt of the loan to the purchase of the vehicles. And he noted that none of the cars were American made, which violates the terms of the loan.

Revocation of the license was not appropriate, King said, because other license holders had been given opportunities to sell their businesses prior to suspensions or revocations.

Sanborn, who did not attend the hearing because he was at a medical appointment, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday. His lawyer had argued that the state’s entire case was built on a sloppy investigation and unproven allegations about the COVID-19 relief loan.

At the time the allegations were announced in August, officials said federal authorities had been notified and that the state had begun a criminal investigation.