Ocean Gaming at Hampton Beach

Return to Hampton Business History Table of Contents

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, June 7, 2011

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online]
Ryan Sheehin, left, and Jim Connors of Hampton contemplate their bets at the newly opened Ocean Gaming at Hampton Beach. [Chris Shipley photo]

HAMPTON -- There may be three other so-called charitable gaming establishments on the Seacoast but brothers John and Peter Anzalone say Ocean Gaming at Hampton Beach has something special those competing businesses don't.

"The best view overlooking the Atlantic Ocean," said John. "Not many poker rooms in New Hampshire can say they offer a panoramic view."

"Generally, at casinos, you want them dark but in our case we couldn't black out our windows," Peter said. "We are using the views to our advantage."

The two brothers have rolled the dice to bring charitable gaming to Hampton Beach at 81 Ocean Blvd. and are hoping to make it a year-round success. Local officials are already betting the establishment could be the anchor destination that spurs the beach to become a year-round tourist destination.

"This is just another attraction and reason to come to Hampton Beach," said BJ Doc Noel, president of the Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce.

"Every committee I sit in on (asks) the question 'what can we do to make Hampton Beach year-round,'" Chuck Rage, Hampton Beach Precinct chairman, said. "This is one way to make it year-round. The more things going on down at the beach, the more businesses that will stay open."

Taking over the second floor of 81 Ocean Blvd. that used to house Dylan's Restaurant, Ocean Gaming is being billed as the premier destination for charitable gaming and "Hampton Beach's only Adult Playland."

It features two bars, a restaurant and such games blackjack, roulette, craps, and of course Vegas-style poker such as Texas Hold 'Em, Omaha, Seven Card Stud Daily Tournaments, Sit n Gos, and more.

"Charitable gaming" is New Hampshire's legalized version of gambling. There is a $4 bet limit per game and 35 percent of the proceeds go to charity. Beyond that, the games are just what you would find at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.

"This is a place with great gaming, great food, two great bars," said John. "But more importantly, the whole concept of this is if your going to game, at least you doing it where some good will come out of it. If you go to Foxwoods and lose the money, it's going to Foxwoods. If you lose money here at least its going to a good cause and the organizations are all local."

Peter said their place accommodates the players and those who may not be up to speed on how to play all the games.

"We understand there will be tourists who may have never played and we accommodate those individuals," said John. "Each table also has instructions and our dealers are very friendly and very accommodating in explaining gaming procedures and rules to the players."

The business also plans to host one-hour, free classes to teach the games, in the afternoons, Peter said.

The brothers are not worried about the competition, John said.

Amenities that separate Ocean Gaming from other area poker rooms such as the one in Hampton Falls are not only Ocean Gaming's view but the menu.

"We specialize in Italian food but we also have New England classics like clam chowder," said Pete. "We also have the best brick oven pizza. It comes out outrageous."

John said the menu caters to the players who may want something light, such as chicken tenders, chili or chef salad — to those who want something more filling.

"It wasn't easy coming up with the menu," John said. "We each had competing thoughts on what we should offer."

"Except for one dish," Peter said. "The spaghetti dinner with spareribs and meatballs. It's a Sicilian special that our grandparents have made forever."

To get the meal right, the brothers even sent for their mother to teach the chef how to make it.

"I think people will be surprised when you taste spareribs with tomato sauce," Peter said. "It's out of this world."

This is the brothers' second foray into charitable gaming and they got the idea from their nephew Nick Anzalone, who used to be game operator at another establishment.

"We started at another location and it didn't work out," Peter said. "Nick saw this building, and called us."

Peter said they flew down to meet with the owner of the building, Terry Daidone, and were immediately sold on the location.

"To say it was impressive was an understatement," John said.

The business partners lobbied for the town's support.

"That was important to us," John said. "We wanted to be up front and make sure the town would support us. Luckily we went through the process and they did."

In return, the brothers have worked to hire more than 100 local employees and to ensure local charities are first in line to benefit from the gaming.

Some of the charities that will benefit on future nights include the Hampton Historical Society, St. James Building Association, and the Hampton PTA.

Peter said the goal is live up to the hype and be a year-round presence at Hampton Beach that helps other businesses along the strip to remain open during the off season.

"Our goal is to have this McDonald's not be a seasonal McDonald's," said Peter, noting the Hampton Beach McDonald's is the only seasonal franchise in the country.

Chips stacked up at Ocean Gaming the newly opened gambling hall open at the Hampton's Main Beach.
[Chris Shipley Photo]
Ocean Gaming's dealer, Greg Thibodeau, and gaming manager, Nick Anzalone took a moment to roll a game of craps at the newly opened gaming hall at Hampton's main beach.
[Chris Shipley Photo]
Jim Connors of Hampton watches the roulette wheel Friday afternoon at at the newly opened Ocean Gaming on Hampton's Main Beach.
[Chris Shipley Photo]
Blackjack, roulette, craps and poker are all available at Ocean Gaming at Hampton Beach.
[Chris Shipley Photo]
Return to Hampton Business History Table of Contents