Support, opposition arise for track

TV Hagenah

Tucumcari Economic Development Director Ben Kendrick has high hopes for a horse-racing track/casino coming to
Tucumcari, but others in the state have their doubts of its viability or are in direct opposition to the move.

“This is looking very good,” said Kendrick last week about the possibility of a horse-racing track coming to Tucumcari. “I am very enthusiastic about it. I think we are at a very good place with this.”

Not so “enthusiastic” however, are the head of the New Mexico Indian Gaming Association and the head of the New Mexico Coalition Against Gambling. Both men have mentioned possible legal avenues to stop any track/casino.

Guy Clark, the executive director of New Mexico Coalition Against Gambling, pointed out that there is currently an official moratorium on any new tracks being built in the state imposed by the New Mexico Racing Commission in January. And under New Mexico State Law, no horse racing track may open in the state without a license issued by that same New Mexico Racing Commission.

In January, Jack Cole the chairman of the Racing Commission said that commission members felt there was a danger of “over saturation” if more tracks were built and that was the reason for the moratorium.

Charlie Dorame, the acting chairman of the New Mexico Indian Gaming Association also said there were legal aspects regarding a Tucumcari race track that affected his organization. Dorame said he feels any new race track/casino opening would be “a breach of the compacts” signed by his organization and the State of New Mexico.

In his interview last week, Kendrick said that the groundwork has already been “laid out” to get the race track and casino in Tucumcari and design concepts are already being worked on.

However, Gilbert Gallegos, a spokesman for Gov. Bill Richardson said the state government would have to get involved before any serious movement can be made regarding a track.

“Any new proposals for a track would have to be reviewed in the context of the impact on New Mexico’s economy, potential competition with other tracks and the long term health of the horse-racing industry in the state,” said Gallegos.

Kendrick said he and others involved with trying to bring a race track to Tucumcari have traveled to a number of other race tracks and casinos to “get the feel of what goes into it.”

Gallegos said that Cole’s stance on the moratorium may not be as absolute as people like Clark have interpreted it.
“I don’t believe there was an actual vote by them (the commission) on the moratorium,” said Gallegos.