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Meet Greg Carlin, the man behind Lilac Mall casino plan in Rochester

Foster’s Daily Democrat – August 6, 2023

Karen Dandurant
Foster’s Daily Democrat | USA TODAY NETWORK

ROCHESTER — The man behind a proposal to open a casino at the Lilac Mall says he has the experience needed, and he believes Rochester is the perfect location.

Entrepreneur Greg Carlin says Rochester Gaming, the name depicted in conceptual plans is a placeholder name, and no official name has yet been chosen. Carlin’s plan will go before the Rochester Planning Board Sept. 11 to seek approval. The nearly 200,000-squarefoot Lilac Mall has been purchased by Carlin through his companies for $5 million.

If approved, the casino project will go forward, Carlin said, regardless of whether Rochester voters on Nov. 7 approve allowing a DraftKings sportsbook gambling site in the city. It is possible the sports betting site could land at the Lilac Mall casino, too.

Who is Greg Carlin?
“I have been in the casino business for a long time,” said Carlin. “I have five casinos now, in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh. Schenectady, Portsmouth, Virginia, and in Chicago, near O’Hare airport.”

Carlin was referring to the Rivers Casino locations in each of those cities, developed by Rush Street Gaming, the company he formerly led, along with its online gambling operation. Carlin left Rush Street Gaming in 2022 to form G-2, a new company, according to Scott  Tranchemontagne, a publicist for Carlin.

Locally in New Hampshire, Carlin said, he recently acquired Ocean Gaming, a charitable gaming business at Hampton Beach. He and his team have been  running it for a few months, according to Tranchemontagne.

“They kept all the employees — but his team is in charge,” he said.

Carlin said in Rochester he purchased not only the Lilac Mall, from the Kempner Corporation, but also the gaming license from Rich Bedrosian, who formerly operated a small charitable gaming operation.

“He shut down during COVID and never reopened,” Carlin said. “I took a look at the country, including New Hampshire, and saw there were a lot of underutilized spaces like the Lilac Mall. It made sense to me to bring this here.”

What will casino at Lilac Mall include?

Which games will be offered? “Our vision is to develop a 32,000-square-foot premium gaming and hospitality venue at the Lilac Mall in Rochester,” Carlin said. “Once complete, the facility would offer a full array of table games, including poker, blackjack, craps and roulette, along with historical horse racing machines, pool tables and other games. It will also include a full-service restaurant and bar that will serve delicious food, refreshing cocktails and a wide selection of New Hampshire craft beers.”

Carlin said he wants to create a contemporary atmosphere at the Milton Road location. “Our Rush casinos are attractive. I plan on working with the same architect I used for the others.”

He said Dover Bingo will relocate to the Lilac Mall as part of the casino project.

Carlin said, if approved, the project will create approximately 80 new full-time and part-time jobs and provide a source of fundraising for local nonprofits.

Nonprofits located in Rochester and the greater Rochester area will be prioritized, he said.

At this time, Carlin said, his company is focused on developing a “premiere gaming and hospitality experience,” which includes a full-service restaurant.

“We look forward to supporting our current tenants while exploring ways to ensure the Lilac Mall is the major economic engine Rochester deserves,” he said.

When might casino open at Lilac Mall?

Carlin said right now his focus is on preparing for the Sept. 11 Planning Board meeting and the needed approvals, noting he would like to get started as soon as is feasible.

“If approved by the Planning Board, we will secure various city permits and begin construction,” he said. “We look forward to welcoming our first guests in mid/late 2024.”

“The city has been great to work with,” Carlin said. “I like doing business in New Hampshire. Once we finalize details, I plan to make some major improvements to the site, including the parking lot and the building itself.”

Lilac Mall revival on Carlin’s radar, too

All of the current businesses in the mall have indicated to Carlin they will remain, with the exception of Jordan Eye Care, he said.

“There are also some empty spaces I will be looking to fill,” he said. “I am speaking to a few potential businesses, possibly a nice restaurant. We will see what makes sense. My plan is to reinvigorate that mall.”

Rochester Economic Development Director Michael Scala said the tenants remaining in the mall are Dance n’ Motion, Seacoast Gymnastics, Bea’s Jewelers, Subway, Papa Gino’s, Label Shopper, Ocean State Job Lot, Dollar Tree, Mattress by Appointment and Great Bay Community College.

Carlin touts his expectations for money raised to help nonprofits

All New Hampshire casinos must give 35% of proceeds to nonprofits. Gov. Chris Sununu recently signed a bill that raises the maximum bet on games of chance to $50, among other changes that could lead to higher revenues for casinos.

Casinos in the state are required to be linked with charitable gaming. Carlin said they are looking to work with a minimum of 72 nonprofits, and as many as 104.  Each organization gets time with the casino, and a cut of the house winnings.

“Our goal is to work with two a week,” he said. “That would be 104 organizations. I believe we can bring millions a year to these great groups.

“We are working with local nonprofits in greater Rochester, many of whom partnered with the previous license holder, which ceased operations in 2021,” Carlin said. “Not only will our proposed project fill a significant need among the local nonprofits that’s been missing these past few years, but we are projecting a significant increase in contributions. We anticipate our Rochester facility will contribute $3 million a year to approximately 100 local nonprofits, up from the $70,000 contributed by the prior operation in its final year.”

What’s left for Rochester to approve casino

City Planning Director Shanna Saunders said that prior to the Sept. 11 meeting with the Planning Board, the casino application will return to the city’s Technical Review Group (TRG).

“We are still waiting on a traffic review,” Saunders said. “The TRG will give their list of amendments and changes needed to the application. We will work with him until the application is complete.”

At the Sept. 11 meeting, the public will have a chance to weigh in on the proposal.

“This is treated as with any property owner,” she said. “If he meets the requirements, the plan can be approved. And if there are any city violations of any type, we deal with that then.”

August 6th, 2023

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