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Belmont casino for sale for $3.5M; gravel deposits valued

BELMONT — For the second time in less than a decade the property on Route 106 that originally began as greyhound race track and ultimately became a charitable gaming venue is for sale.

Last weekend the Manchester Union-Leader newspaper reported that Ryan Goddy, the general manager of the Lakes Region Casino, confirmed that the 213-acre property has been on the market for the past two months at an asking price of $3.5 million.

The venue is owned by Potts Gaming, LLC, whose principal Craig K. Potts of Scottsdale, Arizona, the former president and chief executive officer of Cash Systems, Inc., then the largest provider of cash access services to the gaming industry, operates gaming establishments in Alabama and the Caribbean. Potts could not be reached for comment.

The facility has rooms for table games — roulette and craps— and bingo and stages two poker tournaments, some with guaranteed winnings of $1,000, nightly. It employs about three dozen people and contributes to about 20 charities in the region.

The property has been a gaming venue since 1975 when it opened as Berenson's Belmont Greyhound Track. In 1991, it was acquired by a partnership led by Al Hart who changed its name to Lakes Region Greyhound Park. By offering rebates, or returning a share of wagers — win or lose — at the end of the day, and telephone betting, Hart turned a $10-million business into a $75-million enterprise. But, in 2005, he was compelled to surrender his gaming license and negotiate the sale of the track after two employees were indicted in New York for their part in an illegal gambling conspiracy.

Potts partnered with Marlin Torguson, of the Torguson Gaming Group, which owns casinos on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, to acquire the track for $4.1 million, an investment in anticipation that the Legislature would authorize casino gambling and slot machines. In 2006, after investing $1.5 million to renovate the 35,000-square-foot facility, the venue opened as The Lodge at Belmont, offering live greyhound racing, simulcast wagering on greyhound, thoroughbred and harness racing as well as as dining and live entertainment.

However, the Legislature repeatedly refused to authorize an expansion of gambling and with the prohibition of live greyhound racing and taxation of gambling winnings in 2009 revenues at the venue plummeted. Pari-mutuel wagering, Since 2011, when the Lodge at Belmont became the Lakes Region Casino, it has operated primarily as a charitable gaming hall, with dining and live entertainment.

Rick Newman, former general manager of the Lodge at Belmont, estimated that Potts has approximately $8 million invested in the enterprise. Although the property is grandfathered as a pari-mutuel venue, Newman doubted that it would ever become more than a charitable gaming venue. "It is one of the three or four largest charitable gaming operations in the state," he said. But, he explained, in the unlikely event the Legislature agrees to introduce casino gambling with video slot machines, Belmont is even less likely to become a venue.

While the property is no longer a gambling gold mine, it does lie between two sand and gravel and its atop significant deposits of its own.

Last Updated on Monday, 01 September 2014 09:52

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Police break-up underage party in South Down

LACONIA — Police say they arrested 10 under-aged drinkers at a home at 273 Davidson Drive at 2:52 a.m. Wednesday after police responded to a call for a suspicious person.

Police said they made contact with two young men on Captain's Walk who saw them and ran into the woods.

Three officers followed them and found evidence on the back porch at the Davidson Drive home of alcohol consumption including broken bottles and discarded beer cans.

When officers went to the front door, they found 10 young people under the age of 21 inside the house.

All were taken into custody, charged with unlawful consumption. and released to a sober person. None of them were local.

Police called the homeowners, who were not at the house, and informed them of the party.

Last Updated on Saturday, 30 August 2014 12:35

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$12,000 theft lands M'borough woman in Belknap County Jail for 30 days

MEREDITH — A Moultonborough woman will serve 30 days in the Belknap County House of Corrections after pleading guilty to one misdemeanor and one felony count of theft yesterday morning.

Shirley Cyr, 40, of 14 Hanson Mill Road was sentenced 12 months with all but 30 days suspended for stealing jewelry. She was ordered to pay restitution of $526 through the Belknap County Attorney's Office and be of good behavior for three years.

Cyr was also sentenced to a 2-to-4 year sentence in the N.H. State Prison for Women for one felony count of stealing $12,000 from a person for whom she was providing in home care. All of state prison sentence was suspended pending seven years of good behavior.

Cyr was ordered to bay $12,000 in restitution to the victim through the Belknap County Attorney's Office.

All of the restitution was due yesterday and Cyr began serving he sentence yesterday morning.

Last Updated on Saturday, 30 August 2014 12:29

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Court unequivocally sides with lawmakers in budget dispute wiht Belknap Commission

LACONIA — Justice James D. O'Neill, III of Belknap County Superior Court yesterday granted the request of the Belknap County Convention for a preliminary injunction forbidding the Belknap County Commission from transferring funds of more $300 between line items in 2014 county budget without the written approval of the executive committee of the convention.

The ruling represents a unqualified victory for the convention in its dispute with the commission over their respective authority for the county budget, which has roiled the county government for the past two years.

Last month, the convention brought suit against the commission. Attorney David Horan, representing the convention, argued that state statutes authorize the convention to itemize appropriations "in detail" and to require its executive committee to approve any transfers. Furthermore, the convention resolved to require the commission to submit requests for transfers of more than $300 to the executive committee for its approval.

Turning to the 2014 budget process, Horan said that the convention voted not to fund the annual increase in the employer's contribution to the cost of health insurance, but instead to freeze appropriations for health insurance at 2013 levels. However, shortly after the convention adopted the budget, he explained that the commission shuffled monies from other line items within departmental budgets to restore $209,919 of funding for health insurance. Altogether the commission changed 132 line items, many of them by more than $300.

"The commission," Horan told the court "ignored the appropriations by the convention and this was all done without the approval of the executive committee."

In a brief filed in response on behalf of the commission, attorney Robert Desrosier countered that the convention had no authority to bring suit against any party, let alone the commission. Furthermore, he argued that although the convention voted to file suit with respect to the 2013 county budget, it did not reauthorize litigation by majority vote with respect to the 2014 county budget. Nor, Desosier claimed, did the convention satisfy the criteria required to warrant the injunction it requested. First, the convention cannot show that its suit is likely to succeed on the merits. Second, he argued that neither the convention nor the taxpayers would suffer "immediate and irreparable harm" if the commission spent some or all funds for health insurance, since it would not increase either expenditures or taxes. " Finally, Derosier said that the convention cannot show that the public interest would be adversely affected if the injunction were not granted.

O'Neill rejected each of the commission's arguments in turn. If county conventions had no authority to litigate, he held, "this would in effect render controversies over how county commissioners use budgeted money non-justiciable." In order to bring suit an individual taxpayer would have to show that his or her individual rights were infringed or impaired, which O'Neill considered near impossible in a case like this one. "Thus," he concluded, "unless county conventions have standing to sue, no judicial remedy would exist to redress the potential harms caused by such activity.

O'Neill also held there are no reasons to suppose that a majority vote of the convention is require to authorize it to file suit. State statutes, he noted, "reveal that majority votes are by no means the only way in which a county convention may act." While a majority vote may be one way of authorizing litigation, he held that it is not a requirement.

Finally O'Neill ruled that the convention was likely to prevail on the merits of the case and therefore, unless an injunction was granted the conduct of the commission would create "the prospect of immediate and irreparable harm to the taxpayers of Belknap County" and place "a substantial hardship" on the convention."

The convention contended that line items in the budget represent "appropriations"as defined by statute. The commission countered that "appropriations" refers to the allocation of funds to the various departments of county governments and it has authority to transfer funds between line items within this allocation so long as the total appropriated to each department remains unchanged.

The statute defines an appropriation as "an amount of money authorized for a specific purpose by the legislative body." O'Neill concluded "in this definition, the legislature made no distinction between money allocated to departments generally and to specific line-items within each department. Instead it defined appropriations broadly," he continued. "The definition on its face suggests that line-items fall under this provision."

Furthermore, O'Neill noted that the statute reads "appropriations by the county convention shall be itemized in detail" and found that the convention is not only permitted but required to itemize county budgets. Likewise, the convention is authorized to require the commission to seek the approval of the executive committee before transferring all or part of an appropriation. O'Neill found that if line items were not appropriations, the ability of the convention top exercise this authority would be hampered.

The commission argued that the public interest would be adversely affected if an injunction were granted, claiming if health insurance plans for county employees were not funded, collective bargaining agreements would have to renegotiated or employees would have to be laid off. In dismissing the argument, O'Neill wrote that "the primary interest the public has in how health benefits are funded is how tax revenues are being expended to that end" and held that the effect of an injunction on the public interest would be "at the very most neutral." Nor, the justice found, has the commission has demonstrated that the funding is insufficient and, if it is, has not requested the executive committee to approve a transfer of funds.

The commission also suggested that granting an injunction would involve the court in a political dispute between two branches of government. O'Neill disagreed, noting that the dispute hinged on the definition of "appropriation," which is a matter of statutory interpretation well within the authority of the court.

Last Updated on Saturday, 30 August 2014 12:25

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