Frost says Tucumcari still has potential to build racino

Russell Anglin

At a special Wednesday meeting held at the Tucumcari Convention Center, town residents wanted to know if Quay County was still in the running to host a race track and casino.

Quay County Gaming Board Executive Director Warren Frost and Friedmutter Group development division president Lawrence Tombari speculated on how Quay County might win state licensing to build the racino.

Tombari expressed confidence in Tucumcari’s ability to overtake the racing and gaming licenses originally granted to the city of Raton in 2008.

“They’re ultimately going to lose that license, and then it’s a matter of what happens to this remaining license … and we think that (the state) probably will re-bid that license. I don’t know if it’ll be the whole shenanigan and the whole big process that we did a couple of years ago, but I’m putting you on warning that it could,” Tombari told the crowd. “All I can do is hope that you guys put in the same kind of level of support and effort that you did a couple of years ago, because if it’s anything like that again, I think we’ll win easily.”

Tombari acknowledged that his team could not control legal and political factors affecting Raton’s appeals process. The New Mexico Racing Commission plans to hold a disciplinary hearing regarding La Mesa Racetrack and Casino’s racing license Nov. 10, and a state hearing officer ruled Tuesday in favor of the state gaming board’s decision to void La Mesa’s gaming operator license.

On Tuesday, New Mexico Gaming Board Executive Director Greg Saunders said the board will consider the hearing officer’s ruling at an Oct. 27 meeting.

Frost said changing political tides will help Tucumcari’s chances for a racino.

“The reality is whoever wins the election for governor is going to be good for us. The chairman of the racing commission has been very supportive of Raton and very hostile to us. It’s going to be good to see a change up there regardless of which candidate wins,” Frost said.

Frost and Tombari fielded questions from the audience. One audience member asked if Don Chalmers, the Albuquerque businessman who led the Coronado Park Partners’ proposal to build the racino in Tucumcari in 2008, would still be able to fund the project.

“We haven’t asked to see his checkbook lately,” Frost said, “but there’s no question that he has the wherewithal to handle it and he’s got a wide array of other people that are calling him constantly, wanting to participate if he needs their help.”

Other audience members wanted to know which other cities might compete with Tucumcari for the licenses if the state puts them up for bid again. Frost and Tombari mentioned Clovis and Lordsburg, among other locations, but maintained that Tucumcari would be the state’s most viable choice.

“One of the arguments that we would make is there’s going to be no racing north of Interstate 40 unless they get this track out here. We’re not subject to competition from Indians, nor from other states. It’s really areas that don’t have competition that have the best chance of success,” Tombari said.