The head of the New Hampshire House committee that killed this year’s online casino bill, Rep. Laurie Sanborn, has stepped down from a charitable gaming study commission amid a criminal investigation. The New Hampshire iGaming effort died on April 26 in the House Ways and Means Committee, of which Sanborn is still the chair. On Sep. 1, she resigned as the head of the study commission after gaming regulators accused her husband of misusing $844,000 in pandemic relief funds. He allegedly spent the money on Concord Casino, a charitable gaming facility the couple owns.
In New Hampshire, land-based casinos are called charitable gaming facilities because gambling within their walls funds charities.
Leaders of those facilities led to the death of the 2023 New Hampshire online casino bill. They voiced objections, causing its demise in the House on May 4. However, that death came after the 20-0 committee vote of “inexpedient to legislate” on April 26. The unanimous floor vote to “indefinitely postpone” SB104 came days later.
Rhode Island legalized iGaming on June 20, becoming the only state to do so since Connecticut’s marketplace launched on Oct. 19, 2021.
Most objections to the New Hampshire iGaming measure mentioned the belief that legal online casino gambling would “cannibalize” charitable gaming revenue. Some other naysayers wanted to see the results of the commission’s research. That’s the commission Sanborn headed until Friday.
It was formed to examine “the effect of recent changes made to charitable gaming laws, including the newly authorized historical horse races.”
Bonus asked SB104 sponsor state Sen. Timothy P. Lang Sr., R-Sanbornton, if he believed Sanborn was instrumental in SB104’s downfall. Bonus also wanted to know whether Lang thought the investigation into Sanborn’s husband and their casino would impact his 2024 New Hampshire online casino bill.
Lang told Bonus today:
Well, she is chair and did vote in committee on the bill. So yes, [s]he had influence in the outcome.
As for the second part, that is yet to be seen. Bill filing period for next year opens in about 3 weeks. We will see what gambling bills are brought forward.
Sanborn didn’t respond to a request for comment from Bonus today.
Sanborn Named in EIDL Fund Misuse Investigation
On Thursday, the state’s gaming regulator notified Sanborn’s husband by email and certified mail that it “found credible evidence” that he and Concord Casino “unlawfully obtained an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL”) from the United States Small Business Administration (the “SBA”) in the amount 0f $844,000.”
In the 17-page-long letter, the New Hampshire Lottery concluded that Anthony M. Sanborn and the licensee (Win Win Win, doing business as Concord Casino) aren’t “suitable to be associated with charitable gaming in New Hampshire and, thereby, just cause exists for the revocation of the Licensee’s facilities license and game operator employer license.”
The lottery said former state Sen. Anthony Sanborn “falsely” identified the casino’s primary business activity as “Miscellaneous Services.” Instead, he allegedly used EIDL funds for 27 years of prepaid rent on the Concord Casino, sent to a landlord called The Best Revenge LLC. He owns The Best Revenge.
He also allegedly spent pandemic funds to scout a second casino location, despite calling each of those expenditures “a necessary business expense incurred in the ordinary course of the Licensee’s charitable gaming business.”
The letter claims Anthony Sanborn spent pandemic relief funds on items including an $80,000 2008 F430 Ferrari “as a gift for Rep. Laurie Sanborn.”
The lottery named other “ineligible personal expenditures for himself and his spouse” as including “two Porsche 987 Cayman S racecars for Mr. Sanborn’s personal use.”
The New Hampshire Lottery Commission’s Investigation and Compliance Division coordinated with the Civil Law Bureau of the New Hampshire Department of Justice, the New Hampshire Lottery Commission, and the Attorney General on the investigation.
Concord Casino Is Still Taking Bets
Poker players sit around a table in a photo posted today on the Concord Casino Facebook page. The post congratulates the winners of the Labor Day tournament.
On the casino’s site, the facility slugged “The Best Li’l Casino in America” says it has table games, Lucky 7 electronic games, and poker. The table games include blackjack, roulette, 3-Card Poker, New Hampshire Hold Em’, Spanish 21, and Cross-Cross.
Lang’s bill included table games but not slots.
Meanwhile, the charitable gaming facility owner claims he did nothing wrong.
In an article published on Friday by the New Hampshire Bulletin, Annmarie Timmins reported:
[Anthony] Sanborn, who has received approval from Concord city officials to open a second casino in the city, has 10 days to challenge the decision. In an email Thursday, Sanborn indicated he would.
‘Like so many businesses and organizations, we applied for federal relief to assist in meeting the operational challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic,’ he wrote. ‘Throughout the process, we did our due diligence to ensure compliance with all application requirements and standards. While I strongly disagree with the (Lottery) Commission’s statements, I welcome the examination ahead as I have full confidence our actions were transparent and in complete accordance of the law.’
Rep. Sanborn also didn’t respond to Timmins’ request for comment.