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Casino at Lilac Mall in Rochester on fast track after $5 million sale

Foster’s Daily Democrat – August 3, 2023

Karen Dandurant
Foster’s Daily Democrat

ROCHESTER — A Chicago-based developer who recently bought the Lilac Mall for $5 million is looking to bring a charitable gaming casino to the mall. Plans to bring casino games and sportsbook gambling to the city appear to be moving rapidly with the cooperation of city leaders.

New England Gaming and Consulting LLC Principal Greg Carlin submitted plans to the city for the casino and has requested a continuance to the Rochester Planning Board’s Sept. 11 meeting to present it.

GSG Rochester Propco LLC of Manchester is the name of the holding company that purchased the 200,000-square-foot Milton Road mall, which is sparsely populated and located off Route 125. A Strafford County registry of deeds staff spokesperson confirmed the sale was recorded May 4.

Rochester Mayor Paul Callaghan said New England Gaming holds one of the 11 licenses available in New Hampshire for charitable gambling facilities.

Rochester could add to New Hampshire’s existing three DraftKings Sportsbook and charitable gaming casinos. The others are The Brook casino in Seabrook and the Filotimo Casino and Restaurant at the Dover Bowl complex and in Manchester. All casinos in New Hampshire are required to give a portion of the proceeds to nonprofit organizations.

Rochester leaders pushing casino plans forward, but voters must approve sportsbook

The City Council has taken actions this year to pave the way for a casino in Rochester.

On Tuesday, Aug. 1, the council unanimously voted to place a question asking voters in Rochester’s Nov. 7 election if they want to allow sportsbook betting at a charitable gaming casino in Rochester. The council also scheduled a public hearing on the topic for its Oct. 17 meeting, as required by state law, 15-30 days before the election, Callaghan said.

The City Council in May approved a gaming ordinance for Rochester, which sets locations where a casino could be allowed and parameters for it, including the gaming floor must be at least 20,000 square feet plus additional space for other operations. The ordinance states a casino location could be permitted in the city’s highway commercial zone, which includes routes 11 and 125, as well as the Granite Ridge zone.

“We would build our charitable gaming center regardless of the vote on allowing a sportsbook in the city,” said Scott Tranchemontagne, a publics relations spokesperson representing Carlin, the new mall owner.

He explained only the sportsbook aspect of the casino needs voter approval. “Although we could be a potential location for a sportbook if it passes — the November vote is not related to our proposal.”

All that remains for the casino project to go ahead at the Lilac Mall, Tranchemontagne said, is for the project to receive approval from the city Planning Board and other city permits.

More development in Rochester:First look at The Ridge phase 2. Here’s what people are saying.

Callaghan said the same group that bought the Lilac Mall received approval for a smaller gaming facility a few years ago, prior to his election.

“At the time we didn’t really have a gaming ordinance,” he said. “Now we do. The company has been great to work with. They are being very cognizant of the tenants there now, working with them to stay or wanting to help them relocate.”

Casino developer vows to work with local leaders

“We are bullish on New Hampshire and excited for the opportunities to invest in charitable gaming to help raise significantly more funds for area nonprofits and revive charitable gaming in places that haven’t had it in a while, such as Rochester,” Carlin said in a prepared statement, which identified him as Granite State Gaming and Hospitality’s chief executive officer.

“We look forward to immersing ourselves in the Rochester community and working with state and local leaders to build charitable gaming operations that we expect will raise millions of dollars annually for New Hampshire nonprofit organizations, including $3 million in Rochester.”

What could casino do for moribund Lilac Mall?


Rochester Economic Development Director Michael Scala said only one of the mall’s stores, Jordan Family Eyecare, has decided to move. He said the gymnastics studio, a dance studio, Subway eatery and Papa Gino’s and other businesses in the mall all intend to remain.

“The plan calls for 22,000 square feet of gaming space,” Scala said. “From what I have seen it looks like most of the facility will be where the old movie theater was, and in part of the former Kmart space. They are going for full-on approval in September. … They will make a lot of nice improvements to the parking lot and the mall. It is a great way to develop what has been sort of a stagnant mall. I think it will be a nice catalyst for bringing people in.”

Previous story: Rochester moving closer to vote on sportsbook casino in city

Scala said the developer will spend considerable money on the project.

“He is not cutting corners,” Scala said. “I think this is going to end up being one of the nicest charitable organizations in the state. We are pleased that this group is willing to invest so much in Rochester.”

Gaming facilities by state law need must be connected to charitable organizations that are 501(c)(3) nonprofits, Scala noted. They can rotate between different organizations.

“This will not be insubstantial,” Scala said. “I think some of these organizations can fund themselves for a year with that money, potentially $35,000 to $40,000.”

August 3rd, 2023

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