Eureka Casino Resort has one of the most successful properties in Mesquite, Nevada, on the Utah border. But it also runs the nation’s largest charity casino in New Hampshire. Andre Carrier took his Las Vegas experience with Sahara and Mirage to set up this unique gaming operation. He explains how it works in a podcast available at GGBMagazine.com.
GGB: Tell us how Eureka Casinos was born and what it consists of today.
Carrier: Eureka Casinos is the only 100 percent employee-owned resort casino company in America. I think that’s probably something that sets it apart, makes it a bit different. And it’s also the owner of the largest charity casino in America, which is the Brook in Seabrook, New Hampshire.
I made a friend in the early days of Las Vegas, Greg Lee, and he and I really developed a great friendship over many years when I was working in gaming. One day, Greg and I just wondered if we could work together and make our lives and our work lives better together.
So obviously, Eureka as a company started right on Sahara. Ted Lee, Greg’s father, made the decision to get into the casino business from an office in San Francisco. It might be one of Las Vegas’ first neighborhood casinos. He also bought a parcel in Mesquite many years ago, and we’ve grown that property now over more than 25 years into a regional leader and a golf destination. Mesquite and St. George have grown substantially with a quality of life that continues to be enhanced.
Then you got into New Hampshire. What made you look beyond the borders of Nevada?
Shortly after making the decision to become employee-owned, we came to understand that that an ESOP—an employee stock ownership plan—is a long-term retirement benefit where the investment of those employees is in their own company. I don’t think there’s too many pension fund managers who would say, here’s how I’m going to run your money for you folks. I’m going to have one investment in one city, in one industry. It became pretty clear that to do this well, we needed to diversify the business. And certainly when you’re thinking about how and where, one of those places is going to be home. And part of home for both Greg and I is New England.
And so we kept our ear to the ground for different opportunities in a place that we knew and understood. And Seabrook Park is a place that I was in often during my childhood. So when it appeared that it was available, we dug in and did some due diligence and believed in the promise and idea of America’s only 100 percent employee-owned casino company owning the largest charity casino in America.
What did you have to do when you got there in terms of building a facility?
Well, we laugh about this, but it’s true. When we got there it was a big old racetrack building, and the track was still there, although it looked much more like a park now, and it was raining on the inside of the building; it was kind of famous for that. The roof had been so bad for so long, we had a lot of work ahead of us to make it a regional destination and attraction.
But we had legislative work to do. A lot of people don’t know, but the state of New Hampshire is the second largest democratic body in the world—second only to the parliament in India. But we got to work with some great people. And we were able to rally around a common cause to pass legislation to allow historical horse racing machines that have been showing up in a few jurisdictions across the country. And so we got that done, and we onboarded those games in 2021.
Tell us how gaming works in terms of the regulations and taxation.
In New Hampshire, it’s overseen capably by the lottery commission. And there’s a few different constructs. The table games—live games—run under a charity casino construct where 35 percent of all revenue is donated to charities every day. Charities come forward, they’re screened by both the property and then by the Attorney General’s Office to get gaming dates—they can have up to 10 dates a year. And then the casino companies themselves engage with two charities every day. Those charities then receive 35 percent of the win each day on table games. And then they receive 35 percent of the state’s 25 percent for historical horse racing machines. So currently that means at the Brook, with a seven-day charity run, there will be two charities every seven days receiving between $98,000 and $120,000. This is real money for charities like Make A Wish, Meals on Wheels, and others. And it’s a very efficient way to fundraise and to build awareness.
How many table games and HHRs do you have?
For the HHRs we’re up around 500 currently. And we have 20 poker tables and 18 gaming tables. And then we have an additional dealer-assisted gaming area that gives you almost another 34 positions.
So what’s next for Eureka?
Employee ownership is a great option for people who own resorts, hotels, restaurants or casinos if you don’t quite know how you are going to exit when the time comes. There is a real pathway to that. If you want to benefit and learn about our business model, or think you could apply it and we can help you apply it to your business, please reach out to me. Our story is the way we’ll grow, right? If you’re looking for a different way, the Eureka way may be it, so we’ll continue to grow. That is my obligation and my passion for the people that I’m able to work with every day who own our business.