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Cheers Poker Room owner fined for late financial reports, deleted video footage

Union Leader Correspondent

June 10. 2018 7:30PM

Cheers Poker Room and Casino opened in Salem on Dec. 30. (COURTESY)

SALEM — Cheers Poker Room and Casino, which has had its facility license suspended by the New Hampshire Lottery Commission, is facing thousands of dollars in fines for a range of violations alleged to include frequently late monthly financial reports and the deletion of digital surveillance recordings.

According to a public notice of proposed administrative fines by the Lottery Commission, the company was fined a total of $12,500 for a pattern of alleged violations that began in January, just a month after the 25-table poker room opened.

On Jan. 28, the commission received a report that Donato “Dan” J. Dandreo III, the designated “Game Operator Employer,” was playing poker at his own facility. He was sent a warning letter on Feb. 9.

As far as the commission knows, that has only happened once. If the commission had evidence that it happened repeatedly, it would have led to a fine, according to Valerie King, the director of the Racing and Charitable Gaming Division at NH Lottery.

The commission later warned the company for allegedly failing to file its March High Hand Jackpot monthly promotional report on time. It later fined the company $1,000 for failing to report the April Games of Chance Monthly Financial Reports on behalf of four charitable organizations.

A major violation fine of $5,000 was issued in May for incorrectly listing Cheers as the property owner in its facility application. This error meant Dandreo was operating an unlicensed facility.

In multiple occasions in May, the commission asked for copies of the company’s digital surveillance footage. The company is required by state law to provide surveillance footage to the commission upon request. But when it failed to, it was saddled with another $1,500 fine.

Ultimately, the commission fined Cheers another $5,000 after it learned that the surveillance recordings from before April 9 had been deleted. According to the violation notice, “such a deletion could not be deemed accidental.” State law requires security footage be retained for at least 45 days.

In an email, King said these violations were not mentioned by the commission before because the “questions were with regard to the suspension of the Facility license, so our responses were limited to that issue. The Game Operator Employer license is a separate license with issues unrelated to the suspension.”

King said the request for surveillance footage was part of a routine audit and they weren’t looking for any specific activity.

“There was no particular reason,” King said.

Calls to Cheers have not been returned. On June 3, Dandreo, who also goes by “Puck,” posted on his Facebook page that he’s feeling enraged. “Culpability: do not pity the offenders,” he wrote.

In addition to the fines, the commission increased the bond established by state facility requirements from the minimum $25,000 to $150,000. The amended bond is due no later than June 23.

The company must also pay any fines and submit any late financial filings by that date or request a hearing to appeal the decision. As of Friday, the commission had not received an appeal request.

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