Casino Complex a Bad Bet for Concord
Updated: Feb 10
Dear CG3 friends,
Former state senator and Concord businessman Andy Sanborn (owner of The Draft Sports Bar & Grill and the Concord Casino) has plans to build a new 43,000-square-foot casino and entertainment venue on the east side of our city. Concord residents, including members of Concord Greenspace (CG3), showed up at the Planning Board meeting on January 18th to express deep concerns regarding the casino development.
The Current Situation
Currently, the proposed project (under the name “Big Step, LLC”) is undergoing a two-part review process with the Planning Board.
The first part is a review of the “comprehensive development plan (CDP)” which serves as a “master plan” for the project and property. The CDP was approved by the Planning Board on January 18, 2023. The proposed plan has two phases (Phase 1 features the charitable gaming room and restaurant; Phase 2 includes a hotel, conference center, and parking garage).
The second part is the “site plan application” which deals with the more technical details of the project. The Board is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the site plan application on February 15, 2023. (This is YOUR chance to be heard on the casino plans!)
Potential issues for the project include, but are not limited to:
Lack of a second access point for emergencies
Road improvements to Break O’ Day Drive,
Potential impacts to the City’s drinking water system,
Traffic impacts to Loudon Road and other city streets
Wetlands Dredge and Fill Permit is required from the State of New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.
The Planning Board has declared the project a “Development of Regional Impact” so surrounding communities and the Central NH Regional Planning Commission have been invited to provide their input on this application. We encourage you to attend and testify at the public hearing! (February 15th 7pm City Chambers) Sign the petition here.
What’s the CG3 take?
From a smart growth perspective, we oppose this project because it proposes utilizing undeveloped land instead of infilling existing commercial areas and utilizing existing city infrastructure. We request that the Concord Planning Board engage in a rigorous review of the impact to traffic and wetlands. We support minimizing the amount of new asphalt, raw land disturbance, and urban canopy disruption. We encourage a holistic review of this project to include aesthetic and natural implications. Commercial projects on this scale require significant oversight from City authorities to ensure their compliance in landscaping and site completion as per the project's approval. Often the promised greenscaping does not come to be as originally presented.
From an equitable development perspective, we oppose this project because we believe it will have a net negative impact on the Heights, an already underserved area of the city. The jobs created are mostly minimum wage and lower-skilled jobs. These kinds of jobs do not help raise people out of poverty, nor do they provide transferable skills for when the casino slows down, as research shows they will over time. In addition, Concord already has a tight labor market that has resulted in already well-established local businesses struggling to keep their doors open for full business hours due to lack of staff.
It is no surprise that the overall research on Casinos and their impact on the public health, safety and welfare of the surrounding communities is conflicted. Any time there are high-stakes and something to gain, research will emerge on both sides of the issue. Yet there is significant evidence that Concord will likely see an increase in alcohol-related fatal traffic accidents with this casino plan, and we are concerned about the additional police resources that the proposed casino may require.
Our team requested the police records for all “calls to service” in and around both the Draft (Sanborn’s existing establishment with a casino) and Buffalo Wild Wings (a comparable establishment with no casino). From 2018 to 2022, there were 131 total calls to service from the Draft with 61 of a criminal/assault nature versus 114 overall calls from Buffalo Wild Wings with 37 of those calls being of a criminal/assault nature. That’s almost twice as many serious incident calls to The Draft, which is a far smaller establishment. Additionally, these records end before the latest two police involved incidents at The Draft: 1) a patron flashing a gun on 10/27/22 and 2) a fight with fugitive arrest on 1/22/23. Time should be taken to further review police reports, including those from similar casinos in neighboring towns (Belmont and Manchester).
Furthermore, the expansion of highly taxed gambling activities also raises equity issues, since the revenues come largely from low and moderate income households, whose incomes have declined (or not grown) in real terms along with their spending. Not to mention that a casino may scare away more desirable development and will likely decrease residential property values in nearby neighborhoods at a time when the city is working tirelessly to push through the new zoning code that will help revitalize the Heights and other areas of Concord.
A gaming commission formed by then-Gov. John Lynch in 2009 studied the issue for several months and reached the following conclusions in its final report:
Expanded gaming would generate additional revenues and economic activity, but it would also generate additional societal and economic costs.
Expansion will increase the number of people experiencing gambling addiction in the community.
Proliferation of gaming is a concern, but one with no clear solution.
Market saturation is the idea that no more of a product or service can be sold because there are no more possible customers. It is our understanding that Concord is considered to be a “saturated market” by those in the commercial gaming field because a casino already exists in Concord, and there are two local casinos within relatively easy driving distance (Belmont and Manchester). The risks for Concord of a new casino in a saturated market include: diminishing Casino-related property tax revenue for Concord, a failed business that becomes a burden on the city, and another abandoned building where there was once open space.
What can be done?
Determine what YOU think about the casino project - YOUR input matters.
Show up and testify at the Planning Board Public Hearing on February 15th 7pm City Chambers to be heard by the wider community. It is important to note that the Planning Board is not in a position to turn down this development project based on anything other than the city's existing zoning laws. Their hands are tied when it comes to weighing in outside the scope of these laws. However, let's never doubt the power of public pressure through our democratic process.
Write City Council and importantly include the City Clerk.
Spread the word!
Together, we can stop predatory development that is betting on the Concord community’s ambivalence towards development on our east side.
The CG3 Leadership Team