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Casino Developer Outlines Littleton Plans As Listening Session Nears

Caledonian Record – May 2, 2023

Listening Session Planned For 6 p.m. May 10 At LHS

LITTLETON — A listening session has been scheduled for a possible mixed-use casino being eyed for 804 Meadow St., which currently houses the Staples office supply store.

The session for Littleton residents, nonprofit organizations, and business owners will begin at 6 p.m. on Wed. May 10, in the Littleton High School cafeteria.

In late March, Greg Carlin, owner of G2 Gaming LLC, a developer and operator of regional casinos that was founded in 2022, met with several Littleton town officials about the concept called Granite State Gaming and Hospitality, which would include historical horse racing machines and table games inside the building that currently encompasses some 23,000 square feet.

The idea for a casino is in an exploratory phase and, to date, hasn’t gone beyond it, said Scott Tranchemontagne, a partner in Montagne Powers Communications, a strategic communications firm enlisted by Carlin, who is based in Chicago.

In an interview with The Caledonian-Record, Carlin, co-founder and former CEO of Rush Street Gaming LLC, which in the last decade has become a large developer-operator of regional casinos in North America, laid out the concept for Littleton and the charities that would benefit from revenue-sharing and addressed some concerns, among them gambling addiction, that have already been voiced in the community, including to town officials.

Planned are 200 additional parking spaces and a possible addition to the back of the building.

“For the initial phase, we would build in the existing footprint, and we’re working on being able to add some parking spaces,” he said. “Having good surface parking is an important element for a project like this.”

Because the use fits under retail establishment, it’s possible that no local approval is needed, though the parking spaces could require local approval.

At the state level, Carlin would need two licenses, one for the table games and an HHR license for the historical horse racing machines.

A 2021 law allowed HHR machines in New Hampshire. The machines determine winners based on horse races previously run.

“This is going to be a small facility as far as casinos go,” said Carlin. “Our plan calls for 150 to 200 historical horse racing machines and 20 to 25 table games, including blackjack and some poker tables.”

To put it in context, he said Encore in Boston has 3,100 slot machines and 200 table games.

“This is a significantly smaller operation,” said Carlin.

With the casino, there would be a gastropub type of restaurant with a front bar and televisions, as well as other games to play beyond the HHR and table gaming.

“We’d try to make this a great entertainment destination,” said Carlin. “Littleton is really the shopping capital of the North Country, and lots of people come from Canada, from Vermont, from Maine. We just want to leverage the visitors who are already coming here for other reasons and to shop. One of the things I like about New Hampshire is there’s no sales tax. You look in some of these towns like Nashua, Salem, and Rochester and it draws a lot of folks from out of state to shop. This would be an amenity that would target folks coming to shop anyway, to give them something extra to do.”

Carlin would lease the building from its current landlord, the Needham, Massachusetts-based Waterstone Properties Group.

In New Hampshire, gaming and casinos are overseen by the New Hampshire Lottery Commission.

Noting studies that show 1 to 2 percent of all people who gamble become addicted, Carlin addressed concerns about impacts to residents and families.

“Gambling addiction is a very serious issue,” he said. “It’s something my former company took very seriously and I will certainly take it very seriously with my new company. We’ll work very closely with the Lottery Commission. I’ve already spoken with them about putting together a comprehensive self-exclusion program like they have in other jurisdictions. It was one of the things we did at my former company. The way the self-exclusion lists work is if someone feels like they have a problem and shouldn’t be gambling, they sign up for the self-exclusion list and they are not allowed in the casinos.”

Violators could be prosecuted for trespassing, he said.

When a person hits a jackpot, he or she must show identification, and anyone on the list, depending on the state, would have to forfeit the winnings to charities, said Carlin.

His company also has a bounty program.

“We will pay any one of our team members, if they spot someone who’s in the casino and on the self-exclusion list, a bounty of $300 or $400,” he said.

Carlin said the aim is to incentivize team members and ensure that someone who shouldn’t be in a casino is not there.

“We also put out literature and do other things as well,” he said. “We really don’t want folks who have a gambling problem to be in the casino.”

Carlin said he has seen people with gambling problems willing to put themselves on the self-exclusion list.

Crime and police activity has been another concern.

“We work very closely with the local police in all the jurisdictions my former company operated,” he said. “When you think about a casino, it’s very similar to other retail establishments or bars or restaurants. Beyond that, we have state-of-the-art surveillance systems in both the parking lot and casino … These are very safe facilities. It’s no different than any other retailer, if you have a Walmart or a Target or whatever. It’s a similar kind of impact from a crime standpoint.”

He estimates a casino on the planned property in Littleton would create between 60 and 80 jobs, possibly more depending on the number of table games.

Carlin called them good-paying jobs with healthcare benefits and 401K retirement benefits.

“We really want to create a great benefit for our employees and a great work environment,” he said.

With gaming in New Hampshire carrying a large charity component, Carlin said $2 million annually is the preliminary estimate that would go to local nonprofits from the revenue-sharing.

“One of the things that’s unique about gaming in New Hampshire is, by statute, all of these charitable organizations get part of the revenue,” he said. “It’s a wider group and not just 501c3s, but c4s, c7s, c8s, c10s, c19s. There’s groups other than c3s that are able to participate. Our goal would be to give preference to really local organizations.”

At a minimum, 72 local organizations would be supported and up to 104 could be supported, said Carlin.

Beyond Littleton, Carlin has purchased a company in Rochester with a dormant gaming license and is also looking at a few other possible locations in the state.

The Littleton effort began when the landlord of 804 Meadow St., aware that Carlin was looking to advance the project in Rochester, reached out to Carlin to inform him about the Littleton property, said Tranchemontagne, who characterized the Littleton concept as exploratory, not far down the track, and without a site plan.

Carlin and his team met with Littleton town officials to get a sense of whether the idea was worth exploring, he said.

Carlin said he understands that any new development in a town, especially a casino, can draw concerns.

He said a casino in Philadelphia, before it was approved, drew opposition, but at the 10-year celebration community members turned out, and at least a half dozen people came up to him personally to say they were wrong and the establishment has been a great addition to the city.

“These are economic development engines,” said Carlin. “We’re going to throw off a couple million dollars for charity, we’re going to create new jobs, we’re going to provide another amenity to the folks from out of the area who are already coming to Littleton do to their shopping. We think it’s a win-win. We think it will be great for the community.”

Tranchemontagne said the intent of next Wednesday’s informational meeting is to introduce the Granite State Gaming and Hospitality team and take questions and listen.

Waterstone Properties Group is run by Neal Shalom and Josh Levy.

A voicemail left with the company on Tuesday inquiring if Staples would be relocated to another building in Littleton if the casino plan goes through was not returned by press time.

May 2nd, 2023

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