On July 16, it was reported that ECL Entertainment together with Clairvest, a Toronto-based private equity firm, plan to construct the latest large-scale permanent HHR facility in the previous Sears at Pheasant Lane Mall, Nashua, which will be called “The Mint”, following the purchase of two small businesses in the Nashua. Additionally, “The Mint” will include historic horse racing machines, which were validated in New Hampshire in 2021 and is projected to open in late 2024.
Conditional use license:
The aforementioned acquisition relates to the purchase of Lucky Moose Casino and Tavern and The River Casino & Sports Bar (collectively NHCG), which will enable the companies to construct a “leading gaming operation in Southern New Hampshire.”
ECL purchased The River Property & Hospitality Group, LLC NHCG and LLC, which are legacy operations in the state. The operating license is valid with the LLC, according to NH Lottery. Additionally, NHCG introduced historic horse racing last October by equipping Lucky Moose Casino and Tavern with 65 machines.
Furthermore, the city’s zoning enables “games of chance on the property,” and according to plans submitted to the city, gaming will be featured on both floors of the proposed HHR facility, but some of the space will be leased out to other tenants. It will also include 1,200 slot machines and 62 table games, with the possibility of adding another 300 slots in the future. Speaking of the aforementioned plans, Deputy Planning Manager Linda McGhee wrote in a memo to the board: “No exterior changes are proposed to the building. Both levels of the former Sears store will be utilized for various gaming, slots, poker, food and beverage. Some spaces will be leased to other tenants.”
The planning board has scheduled a hearing for the conditional use license on August 3, and if approved, traffic is expected to increase with the opening of “The Mint” to what it was during the time when Sears was open. Additionally, public works officials want to see repairs to the intersection entering the mall near Zimmermanns Skis, Boards & More.
The Sears, which officially opened in 1986, closed permanently in 2020. EC NH Real Estate Holding, Inc. purchased the previous Sears anchor place in November for $11.5 million, according to the Hillsborough County Registry of Deeds. Moreover, the entity wrote down Ron Winchell and Marc Falcone as president and vice president, individually. On that note, in a news release, Falcone said that “they plan to build The Mint into one of the most sought-after HHR gaming platforms in the New Hampshire market.” However, he did not respond on Sunday afternoon.
Until now, almost $50 million has been funded into the plans, according to Clairvest’s financial reports online.
New Hampshire as a lucrative market for HHR facilities:
Currently, there are eight gaming establishments in New Hampshire that manage historic horse racing machines, involving the Boston Billiards Club, also in Nashua. As for the historic horse racing gaming machines, they are set up so players may replay or watch the outcome of the races they’ve placed a bet on. Also, this machines randomly chose races from a database containing thousands of races.
Furthermore, the historic horse racing bill passed in June 2021 as mentioned above, permitting 15 existing gaming operations to add HHR machines to their offerings.
Majority of operations involving HHR machines sold to out-of-state operations:
However, many operations involving HHR machines have been sold to out-of-state companies over the past few years, some of which have been sold to family-owned companies, involving Chasers Poker Room in Salem to Kentucky-based Churchill Downs and Boston Billiards Club to Delaware North. In addition, The Brook has gone through a multi-million dollar redevelopment process, as Eureka Casino Resort purchased the previous Seabrook Park property during 2019.
On that note, Newman said: “What the owners realized was once rules were adopted to implement historic horse racing it became evident that it was very expensive and very regulatory in the sense that you need the expertise. It is not opening up a pizza parlor. It is a very heavily regulated business.”