Concord, NH, to Change Casino Zoning Laws Following Concord Casino Debacle

The city of Concord, New Hampshire, is going to implement significant changes to its charitable casino zoning laws, a move catalyzed by the recent upheaval surrounding the Concord Casino. More restrictive measures are coming, including changes to where casinos can operate.

The clock tower in the center of Concord, New Hampshire. (Source: Getty Images)

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The Concord Casino, once a bustling hub for charitable gaming, found itself at the center of controversy following allegations of financial misconduct on the part of its former owner, former state Senator Andy Sanborn. The ensuing debacle has prompted city officials to reevaluate and redefine the zoning laws that govern gaming establishments within the city limits. It also led to Sanborn having to give up the casino.

Related: Andy Sanborn to Lose Concord Casino as Fraud Charges Loom

At the heart of the proposed changes is a concerted effort to limit the proliferation of casinos in Concord, confining them to specific areas deemed appropriate by the city's planning board. This strategic approach aims to balance the economic benefits of gaming facilities with the city's broader urban planning goals.

Another change would prevent gaming operations from being conducted more than four times per year. In addition, the properties would not be allowed to operate as a stand-alone casino.

Concord Casino, however, would be exempt under the new rules. It would receive an exemption since it opened and operated before the new rules were put in place.

The planning board's approval of the new zoning proposal marks a critical first step in a process that will involve public input and city council deliberations. The proposed amendments seek to establish a more controlled and ethical environment for gaming activities, ensuring they align with the community's values and expectations.

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The Concord Casino's turnover, mandated to be completed within six months from January 1, was a direct consequence of the owner's unsuitability for the state's charitable gaming model. The investigation, led by the New Hampshire Lottery Commission and the Attorney General's office, uncovered fraudulent activities involving pandemic relief funds. This scandal not only tarnished the reputation of the Concord Casino but also cast a shadow over the city's regulatory framework, highlighting the need for more stringent controls and oversight mechanisms.

In response to these developments, the proposed zoning amendments delineate a clear distinction between principal and accessory uses of gaming facilities. The new ordinance would only allow them to operate as accessory uses in certain zones.

These zones house churches and non-profit organizations, which have historically hosted fundraising events. The planning board's decision reflects a nuanced understanding of the city's social fabric and the role that gaming can play within it, provided it is carefully managed and regulated.

As Concord moves forward with these zoning changes, a public hearing scheduled for July 8 will offer residents the opportunity to voice their opinions and contribute to the shaping of their city's future. The city council's subsequent actions will determine the final form of the ordinance, potentially setting a precedent for other municipalities grappling with similar issues.


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