GTEDC has plans for casino, race track in city

By Chelle Delaney: QCS Staff

The Greater Tucumcari Economic Development Corp. (GTEDC) will propose to communities in Quay County that they jointly pursue an application with the New Mexico Racing Commission to obtain New Mexico’s last racetrack permit, according to a press release from the GTEDC.

Under the proposal, the racetrack and casino would be jointly owned by the government entities in Quay County, including Tucumcari, Logan, San Jon, House, and Quay County itself, the release said.

The GTEDC has an option on a 250-acre site on Route 66 between the Kmart and the Holiday Inn for the proposed project, said attorney Warren Frost, a member of the GTEDC and project coordinator.

It’s estimated the casino-racetrack would cost about $40 million and that it would pay for itself, Frost said. “Under our plan, the public will not be paying any additional taxes. The revenue generated by the project will be used to pay for the indebtedness.”

The New Mexico Legislature approved new Indian gaming compacts last week, which limit the number of racetracks within the state to six, the release said.
There are currently five in operation. They are The Downs at Albuquerque, SunRay Park in Farmington, Sunland Park in Dona Ana County, Zia Park in Hobbs and Ruidoso Downs.

The GTEDC plans to model its project after SunRay Park, which is owned by San Juan County, Frost said.

In Quay County, the communities would create a separate entity known as the Quay County Gaming Authority, which would own and operate the track and casino, the release said.

Tucumcari would have a 40 percent interest, Quay County 25 percent, Logan 15 percent, San Jon 10 percent, House 5 percent, and the GTEDC 5 percent, according to the release.
The authority would be run by a board of directors selected by the entities, which would hire a management team with expertise in horse racing and casino operations, the release said.
The GTEDC decided to pursue this proposal after it became clear that Zia Park in Hobbs was a great success, the release said. Zia Park was built in 2005 for an approximate cost of $30 million and recently sold for $200 million, the release said.

“Although we congratulate the owners of Zia Park for making a great investment – we don’t believe it is appropriate for the state to grant the last track license to an investment group, or 3-4 individual investors. We believe an asset of that value should benefit the communities of Quay County,” Frost stated in the press release. “We will follow the example set by San Juan County, which owns SunRay Park in Farmington,” Frost said.

The GTEDC submitted a letter to the New Mexico Racing Commission on Tuesday informing the commission of Quay County’s plans, Frost said.

All Quay County governing bodies will meet in joint session in early April to discuss the proposal, the release said.

From there, the groups who want to be involved would execute a joint powers agreement, Frost said. A new entity would then be set up and it would make a request for a proposal for a management group to assist in the application process to the state’s Racing Commission, Frost said.

The application should be completed no later than Aug. 1, Frost said.
Frost said he’s aware that Raton and the Pojoaque Publeo have already applied for the last racetrack permit.

“We think we have the best location and application,” said Frost, “because it’s along I-40 and the proximity to Texas, specifically Amarillo.”

Frost said the option for the proposed site was with two groups, siblings Tommy and Elizabeth Morris and the Whittington family.

A study has been made by the GTEDC on the economic impact of a track and casino in Tucumcari, however, Frost declined to disclose its results.

Frost said, “Tucumcari and Quay County are in a terrible economic state and we are convinced that this type of project will turn our economy around.”