Planning Board votes 4-1 to approve mall casino
NASHUA – The Planning Board voted 4-1 during its Sept. 7 meeting to approve the proposal for The Mint Gaming Hall to open at Pheasant Lane Mall next year.
Attorney Morgan Hollis, counsel for project applicant EC NH Real Estate Holdings, said the casino will be located in the 169,000 square-foot space that was formerly occupied by Sears.
The Mint will feature 1,200 historical horse racing terminals, 62 gaming tables, three restaurants and parking for 1,375 vehicles.
Hollis also assured the board that his client is no stranger to the gaming industry as EC NH currently operates The River Casino and Sports Bar as well as Lucky Moose Casino and Tavern.
Operating as a charitable casino, The Mint will donate 35 percent of its gross revenue to non-profit organizations.
“Every charity within the local region is allowed to participate,” said Hollis.
He said that in 2022, the Lucky Moose and The River donated $1.8 million to 108 local non-profit organizations. The Mint is expected to generate $24 million for charity by 2025.
Because the casino’s parking lot would be located in Tyngsborough, Mass., concerns were raised over police jurisdiction.
“As soon as you leave the door of the Sears building, you’re in Massachusetts,” said Richard Dowd of Ascot Park. “There is no formal agreement between the Nashua Police Department and Tyngsborough nor has there been any communication between the two departments. It’s all been third party.”
Dowd also said food service will end at 10 p.m.; however, alcoholic beverages will continue to be served until the casino closes at 4 a.m.
“That’s six hours when you can be drinking and gambling,” he said. “You don’t have to be drinking for six hours before you could have an issue.”
Therefore, Dowd suggested that the board have a written agreement between both police departments describing how jurisdiction would be handled.
Daniel Archambault, security manager at Gate City Casino, said he is constantly understaffed and that he often looks to the Nashua Police Department for assistance.
“We hire details at Gate City Casino, we don’t always get them filled.” he said.
In addition, Archambault said he has been to Lucky Moose numerous times and has never seen any security officers.
“That’s a small place, they only have 60 machines give or take,” he said.
Attorney Richard Lehmann, counsel for Gate City Casino, cited the provisions under the Fresh Pursuit Statute. He said a New Hampshire police officer can only follow a suspect into Massachusetts and make an arrest if that person is suspected of a felony.
However, incidents at the casino would most likely be misdemeanors.
“Fights, destruction of smaller amounts of property, alcohol-related events, those are virtually all misdemeanors,” said Lehmann. “There’s no ability to cross the state line into Massachusetts to make an arrest.”
He also questioned the integrity of a law enforcement agreement.
“There are a great deal of unknowns about how this relationship between the Nashua Police and the Tyngsborough Police is going to work,” he said.
In response, Hollis dismissed the comments made by Lehmann and Archambault.
“They don’t want competition,” he said. “These people don’t have any standing to be here.”
He also said it is common for issues to arise regarding police jurisdiction.
“This is not something new, this is not something novel, jurisdictional issues occur,” said Hollis, adding that the two police departments may not reach an agreement.
Stefan Hausberger, owner of Zimmermanns, spoke in favor of the proposal.
“Having a casino in a mall is outside-the-box thinking,” he said. “At the end of the day, the benefits far outweigh any risks.”
Elena Slattery of the Nashua International Sculpture Symposium said her organization receives charitable contributions from the Lucky Moose and The River.
“In the past three years of that partnership, the scope of our operation has increased substantially,” she said.
Charles Emmons of Strawberry Bank Road said The Mint will give patrons a new reason to visit the mall.
“It seems as if the giant retail that gave birth to the Pheasant Lane Mall is perhaps dying out,” he said. “We have a proposal to put this square footage to use.”
Board Chairman Scott LeClair also highlighted the merit of converting an empty department store into a casino.
“Vacant anchor stores and malls are not a great thing for the city,” he said. “Any kind of use that can be productive, that seems valuable.”
Aldermanic Liaison Patricia Klee said this will be much different than the prior retail use.
“This is not going to be the same as Sears,” she said. “It’s going to be open later, there’s going to be more alcohol there.”
Klee also remained concerned about the issues of police jurisdiction. Therefore, she could not vote in favor of the casino.
“It breaks my heart because if it were somewhere else, I would have no problem,” she said.