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Gary Trask

Gary  Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has worked as a writer and editor more than 20 years. The Boston native was a member of the Poker Hall of Fame's inaugural Media Committee and a current member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame voting panel.

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

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The Brook in New Hampshire opens new DraftKings Sportsbook

12 Aug 2020

By Gary Trask
Despite the mandatory mask that was covering his face, Andre Carrier’s ear-to-ear grin was clearly evident on Wednesday morning. All things considered, it was hard to blame him.

There hasn’t been much great news to come out of the casino/gaming industry over the last several months. But today, Carrier, CEO of The Brook, was celebrating another milestone for the historic New Hampshire property just over the Massachusetts border that his company, Eureka Casinos, acquired in early 2019.

In conjunction with the New Hampshire Lottery and DraftKings, The Brook quietly became the state’s first property to offer retail sports betting on Wednesday.

We say “quietly” because the original plan was to unveil sports betting here in The Stadium section of The Brook on Day 1 of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament back in March. A celebration with the obligatory ceremonial first bet from a local celebrity or politician, a slew of media and TV cameras and, of course, a house full of sports bettors lining up to get in on the March Madness action was in the works until, well, you know what happened.

But, COVID-19 be damned, retail sports betting has landed in the Granite State, albeit nearly five months later than anticipated and with much less pomp and circumstance.

“I think it’s so appropriate that we’re the first to offer sports betting because this has been a house of action for decades,” Carrier said proudly of the 75-acre property that was formerly known as Seabrook Greyhound Park for nearly four decades. “It’s nice to know that a whole new generation of people are coming to this newly resurrected and renovated building and now they can bet on sports when they’re here.”

“The timing is right," he continued. "It’s pretty much a panacea for sports bettors right now with the NBA, the NHL, Major League Baseball and, hopefully, the NFL next month. It’s not the NCAA tournament, but, frankly, this might be even better with all that’s going on.”

The Stadium venue at The Brook, which also offers table games, poker and simulcast racing, was unveiled as a “sports viewing” area back in January and, trust me, if this place was dropped down inside a Las Vegas Strip casino tomorrow it would not look out of place, thanks to three cinema-size 4K video displays, over 150 televisions, stadium seating, two rows of eight reclining leather seats with drink holders and trays, and eight private sections that have couches and personal monitors.
Now, to complement the ultra-modern Las Vegas sportsbook betting atmosphere, DraftKings offers three teller stations dedicated to sports betting and 10 betting kiosks. While mobile sports betting was introduced in New Hampshire by DraftKings at the tail end of 2019, most sports bettors would agree that there’s nothing like settling in at a live sportsbook for a full day of games, drinks, food and wagers.

“To have a retail sportsbook in New Hampshire is exciting,” said DraftKings Head of Sportsbook Johnny Avello, who began his career in the business as a ticket writer at the Las Vegas Hilton in the early 1980s before spending 13 years running the sportsbook at Wynn Las Vegas. “Yes, we were already there on the digital side, but the retail side of the sportsbook is also very important.”

“People like to go to a physical location, talk to the workers and gather as a group. There’s a certain camaraderie at a sportsbook when everyone is watching the games together and betting on them so we’re thrilled to bring that experience to New Hampshire.”

I was happily among the first to enter The Brook on Wednesday morning and get a crack at one of the kiosks. The platform was very self-intuitive and easy to use as I plunked down $100 to win $1,100 on the Toronto Raptors to win the NBA championship while also grabbing the generous 16-to-1 odds on the Celtics to prevail in The Finals. The Brook spent countless hours training its staff members to assist guests with any questions while using the kiosks to prevent any unnecessary troubles for someone not accustomed to using them.

Meanwhile, down at the lower level of The Stadium, Steve Luca from Salem, Massachusetts, was the first to place a wager at one of the live teller stations as he played a $50 parlay on the Padres in MLB action and the Raptors in the NBA that will pay him back $156, if it hits.

All the while, Carrier was roaming the floor with that perma-smile on his mask-covered face. Eureka Casinos, which also operates properties in Mesquite and Las Vegas, is a 100% employee-owned company. Like the rest of the gaming industry, it took a big hit when forced to close the doors at its casinos for more than three months as the world dealt with an unprecedented pandemic.

Before reopening in mid-June, The Brook, a charitable casino that directs 35% of gaming revenues directly to local organizations, implemented a number of new safety measures and social distancing requirements, including adding physical markers and protective plexiglass barriers throughout the property, limiting casino capacity, substantially spreading out and reconfiguring the gaming floor, and reducing seating in all dining areas and bar, as well as reduced seating at all table games.
The casino and racebook are thoroughly cleaned every day, including the sanitization of chairs, table games and rails, chips, cards, stadium games, and food and beverage outlets and kitchens. For the time being, the property is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays for an even more meticulous cleaning.

“This has been a remarkably difficult period of time to make the best decisions and make good choices, but it feels right to be open again,” said Carrier, who has overseen a dramatic rejuvenation of the property, including a complete repurpose and remodel of the track’s grandstand area as well as the exterior of the building. “If we’re blessed with one thing here it’s a lot of square footage. We have 90,000 square feet, so that gives everybody their own safe space.

“When you think about who’s been affected by this crisis the most, it’s the men and women who serve our customers because this is a 100% employee-owned business and they are the ones at risk, both economically and physically. We’ve done everything that we can do to give our employees a safe place to work and our guests a safe place to come out and play. People want to get back out and have fun and we’re happy to provide a safe space for them to do that.”

And now they can do so with live sports betting. All the while, Massachusetts and Maine continue to hit roadblocks in legislative sessions and drag their collective feet in regards to bringing regulated sports betting to their residents. The only other legal sports betting available in New England is a few hours south in Rhode Island, at Twin River Casino Hotel and Tiverton Casino Hotel.

According to DraftKings, the digital sportsbook has attracted 42,000 registered users since the launch in December with total sports betting in New Hampshire exceeding $65 million. DraftKings, which says it will hold an official ribbon cutting at The Brook in September, plans to open and operate at least four retail sportsbook locations statewide.

“We’re hopeful that we’re going to attract plenty of people from across the borders,” added Avello. “That’s the plan. So far, so good. The new retail location in New Hampshire can only help.”

 
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