Support varies for race track, casino

By Chelle Delaney: Quay County Sun

There was little opposition to a proposed race track and casino in Tucumcari at a meeting on Monday night. Here is what some of the attendees had to say:

• Wes Stewart, pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Tucumcari, said he opposes the proposed racino or race track plan.

“I’m against this,” Stewart said. “What are we going to do about the moral aspects?”
When casinos and race tracks have been in other communities, “you can just look and see what kind of changes that community has had: Increases in divorce rates, crime rate, suicides,” Stewart said.

“Some things are more important than money,” Stewart said. “It’s not good for everybody. I don’t think it’s good for our town.”

Gambling Anonymous studies have also shown that those who have gambled have had failed marriages, lost more than $100,000 each, written hot checks. “This is from the people who have sought help, many more don’t seek help,” Stewart said.

• Jim Witcher, city of Tucumcari commissioner and pastor of the First Christian Church , said he understood Stewart’s concerns.
However, “We can control who comes and goes,” said Witcher. “You have a control issue there, where sometimes you don’t. For example, people can go on the Internet, with their charge card, and gamble all they want to any time of the day. At the casino or racetrack, age limits will be set. If somebody is going overboard, you can tell them to quit.”
Also a certain percentage of the income will be going to the rehabilitation of compulsive gamblers, Witcher said.
“The more you can help keep it safe and above board, the better off you are,” Witcher said.

• While hotelier Neil Patel of Tucumcari was not against the project, he questioned the need for extra acreage that would be used for hotels because of adverse consequences to his businesses.

Here’s what others had to say:

• Using the race track for rodeo or other events that would bring in more visitors and tourists by Leo Pacheco, mayor protem of House.

• Including simulcast for horse racing because it is popular and attracts more visitors, said Max Henderson of Tucumcari, who had lived in Santa Fe and said it was popular there.

“About 70 percent of the income comes simulcast and a major part of the horse racing will be simulcast,” said Warren Frost , project coordinator for the proposed racino.
There will would probably also be general admission seats, a “turf club” with box seats that could be rented, Frost said.

• Implementing a split season, instead of the traditional Memorial Day to Labor season for horse racing, said Ray Bates.

• Seeking the license. “I don’t think we should sit back,” said Tanya Rigdon.

• Pulling together for the project. “The most positive thing is that all the government entities are here,” said Debbie Lafferty, president of the Tucumcari Quay County Chamber of Commerce. “It shows that we are pulling together.”

• Asking what citizens can do to support the project. “I like the proposal,” said Janie Murray. “As citizens I’d like to know what we can do to support it.”

• Investigating proposed site for race track. John Mayhill asked if the property wasn’t in a flood zone.