By Barbara Ellestad
What does a small, coastal New Hampshire town have in common with a small, desert Nevada town?
As of the first day of February, both have a 100-percent employee-owned gaming company called Eureka Casino Resort in its midst. The Eureka, based in Mesquite, is one of only two employee-owned casino companies in the United States.
Greg Lee, chairman, and Andre Carrier, chief operating officer, both with the Eureka, announced the purchase of Seabrook Greyhound Park, a 75-acre property and 90,000 square foot facility in Seabrook, New Hampshire. The park has a storied history as a destination for live racing, off- track betting and charitable casino gaming since 1973.
The greyhound park is located about an hour north of Boston, just off I-95 at Exit 1 at the New Hampshire-Massachusetts border, and very near to the Atlantic coastline. While the park does not have onsite hotels, there are many located in nearby Hampton Beach.
“We are excited to bring the opportunity for employee ownership to this legacy business. We look forward to bringing our corporate culture, and our desire to meet and exceed the expectations of our guests and the communities we serve, to New Hampshire,” Lee said.
“It feels great to be home,” Carrier said.
Both men have deep ties to New Hampshire. Lee was a graduate of St. Paul’s School in Concord and Carrier’s family still resides in the Mount Washington Valley. Their connection to the Granite State and extensive industry experience inspired them to pursue the opportunity in Seabrook.
“Greg and I love the land and location of Seabrook Park as well as the business opportunity,” Carrier said. “We think we are able to bring some new energy to race wagering and our approach to business is really aligned with the charitable casino model in place in New Hampshire. We foresee doing a lot of good here while having a lot of fun.”
In an exclusive telephone interview, Carrier told the Mesquite Local News that the Eureka Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), established in 2015, is the official purchaser of the property. “The bartender who works at the Eureka in Mesquite has ownership in the Seabrook property. The waitress who works at the Seabrook property has ownership in the Mesquite property. It’s exciting and rather unique for our ESOP,” Carrier said.
Carrier said when the company was looking to diversify from both an industry standpoint and geographically, “the Seabrook property checked both boxes for us. We see this as a legacy business that is ripe for reinvention. We believe there is good growth potential in retail entertainment in the area. Also, the charitable casino gaming model is a perfect fit for our company’s mindset.”
The state of New Hampshire outlawed live greyhound racing in 2010 so the park relies on simulcast off-track betting and charitable casino gaming. “Should the state allow an expanded resort gaming style, we most certainly can build new hotel facilities on the grounds because we have the space to do so,” Carrier said.
The charitable casino gaming model is a throwback to the days when charities used gaming nights to raise money for their work. Rather than the gamer business traveling to the charity though, this model allows charities to contract with a professional gamer for a set number of days through the year at a fixed location like the Seabrook Park. Proceeds from the charity’s event are split between the two entities. “It’s a highly efficient way for a casino gamer to work on behalf of charities,” Carrier said.
Eureka will begin improvements to the facility immediately with construction beginning Feb. 4. The casino, poker room, and simulcast/off-track betting areas will remain open throughout the remodel and will maintain customary operating hours. Eureka plans to transform the entire facility into the region’s premier gaming, entertainment, and food and beverage destination, with the first full phase of development completed by August.
“We will work hard to design and build a new facility that is welcoming and exciting to both first-time guests and the Park’s long-time valued customers,” said Carrier. “The Park has been a landmark in New Hampshire for nearly half a century and we take our responsibility seriously to make it a vibrant business and destination for many years to come.”