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Future is bright in New Hampshire as Eureka Casino Resort steps in

1 April 2019

SEABROOK, N.H. -- Walk the grounds of Seabrook Greyhound Park in New Hampshire, and you can almost feel the history oozing out of every corner.

For nearly 40 years, the family-owned, 75-acre property, which sits a mile north of the Massachusetts border and less than an hour's drive from Boston, hosted daily live greyhound racing – and the remnants of those glory days are still omnipresent.

Although they haven’t been used for close to a decade, since greyhound racing was outlawed in the state, the tote boards and oval-shaped track where the dogs dutifully chased a lure named “Yankee” can be clearly seen through the floor-to-ceiling glass windows. Dozens of betting windows remain, although the majority of them aren’t being used. As a small crowd of people placed their wagers on simulcast races from other states on a recent Friday afternoon, they were surrounded by trophies, plaques and other greyhound racing memorabilia that hang on the walls.

Despite this storied past, the 90,000-square-foot facility has struggled since live racing was shuttered in 2010. Simulcast races have been available to bet on seven days a week. There is also the Seabrook Poker Room offering a busy schedule of daily events and a small charitable casino at the other end of the track, but on most days, the massive parking lot just off Route 107 doesn't see a lot of traffic.

“There’s definitely a certain charm to a track like this,” a longtime customer said, sipping a draught beer at the center bar as he kept an eye on the races being shown on the monitors. “It’s been kind of quiet up here for a long time, but we’re excited about the changes that are coming. It could be just what the doctor ordered for this place.”

The new sense of optimism follows the announcement in late January that Nevada-based Eureka Casino Resort had purchased the property. Not only does the 100% employee -owned company bring a grand vision and extensive experience in the casino/gaming industry (it owns and operates Eureka Casino in Las Vegas and Eureka Casino Resort in Mesquite), but the two executives leading the charge have local ties, so the transaction was more than simply a business decision.

It was an opportunity for Chief Operating Officer Andre Carrier and President Greg Lee to come home.

“We were looking to diversify by industry and by geography, and when you do that you look at places where you are comfortable and where you have a sense for the marketplace,” explained Carrier, who grew up between Southeastern Massachusetts and the White Mountains in New Hampshire. Lee went to high school at St. Paul’s in nearby Concord, N.H. and graduated from Harvard. “So, naturally one of the places you’re going to look is home, and that's what we did.

“We started looking at the gaming market in New Hampshire, and although it is not fully matured like it is in most other states, we thought there was a tremendous opportunity. We like the region for a lot of reasons, and we think it’s a great fit for us.”

Eureka Casino Resort wasted no time in rolling up its sleeves and beginning an extreme makeover that has been dubbed “Project Granite” (New Hampshire is known as the Granite State). While keeping the property open for business, construction began in February. Last month, The Greyhound Casino & Tavern was unveiled, featuring a very comfortable “ski lodge” type of feel. The nonsmoking venue features a granite bar and high-top tables along with a full “pub style” menu, as well as six brand new poker tables; 11 table games featuring the likes of blackjack, Mississippi Stud and Three Card Poker; and two roulette tables. There are also close to 20 TVs, a ton of Boston sports collectables decorating the walls and free Wi-Fi. In addition, the 12-table tournament poker room, adjacent to the new tavern, received a facelift with new carpet, new tables and a fresh coat of paint.

"We wanted to do something quickly to give everyone an indicator of what we can do and what we intend to do to improve the facility,” said Carrier, a 1992 Cornell University grad who spent seven years as a COO with Golden Nugget in Laughlin before joining Eureka in 2006.

Phase II of Project Granite, expected to be completed in September, is also underway and will include a complete repurpose and remodel of the track’s grandstand area, where the plan is to build a state-of-the-art race and sportsbook, along with more food and beverage options and what Carrier called a “really professional and modern charity casino.” He also said they plan to utilize the large outdoor area where the dormant track sits in some fashion.

"We really believe in the charitable casino model,” added Carrier, pointing out that 35% of all casino revenue goes to a local charity on a rotating basis. “I’m going to work real hard in the next year to perform better and better for the charities in New Hampshire that we’re working with.”

Eureka Casino Resort COO Andre Carrier welcomed the chance to return home when his company purchased Seabrook Greyhound Park in New Hampshire.

Eureka Casino Resort COO Andre Carrier welcomed the chance to return home when his company purchased Seabrook Greyhound Park in New Hampshire. (photo by Eureka Casino Resort)

Meanwhile, amid the new plans and construction in Seabrook, the New Hampshire Senate last week voted 13-11 to revive a bill that would license two casinos in New Hampshire. Also last month, the state House of Representatives passed a bill that has the backing of Republican Gov. Chris Sununu and would allow New Hampshire to follow in the steps of its fellow New England state to the south, Rhode Island, and introduce regulated sports betting, joining a host of other U.S. states that have done so since the Supreme Court abolished the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 back in May.

“If [New Hampshire] chooses to use sports betting as a method to grow tax revenue, then we'll be here to use our experience and financial wherewithal to make sure it's executed at the most professional and highest level,” Carrier said when asked about the recent legislative movement. “I’ve been building environments like this for a long time. I think we could have one of the best places to watch sports within about 200 miles.

“I think, in large part, the people who came to Seabrook Park over the last 20 years were here to bet on racing. I’d like to think that over the next 20 years there will be even more compelling reasons to come here, whether you like to gamble or not. Our goal is to build a fun entertainment destination, and there’s no doubt that the bones are already here for us to do so.”

Carrier said longtime patrons of Seabrook he has met have been overwhelmingly enthusiastic and supportive of the new ownership and its grand plans for the future. Same goes for the 200 employees, who now have their very own skin in the game, since Eureka is fully employee-owned.

Eureka Casino Resort was launched in 1997 by Lee and his family, and in 2015 they turned it into Nevada’s first employee-owned hotel-casino company. Today, it employs more than 500 people and is one of the largest employers in Mesquite. It’s a model the company firmly believes in, and it seems to be working. Last year, Fortune honored Eureka as one of the 100 Best Medium Workplaces in America.

“It’s one of the reasons I think we can make such a great contribution to the state of New Hampshire,” Carrier said. “Because we are fully employee-owned, the stronger the company becomes, the stronger the people who work here and reside in New Hampshire and New England become. It’s a unique circumstance that is set up to make a positive impact for everyone.

"It's been remarkable for me to talk to so many people over the last few months who have so many fond memories of coming to Seabrook. That makes it even more exciting to think about what we're building for the future, which I think is as bright as it's been here for a long, long time."
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Best of Gary Trask
Gary Trask

Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor. He also manages new business ventures for Casino City.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee and a current member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame voting panel, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT
Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor. He also manages new business ventures for Casino City.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee and a current member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame voting panel, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT