Racing license up for grabs

QCSun staff

Tucumcari may be back in the running for a race track.

The New Mexico Racing Commission announced Thursday that a license granted La Mesa Racetrack in Raton has expired and the commission plans to consider applications from other interested communities across the state.

The La Mesa license is the last non-reservation racing license available in New Mexico.

“In 45 days the commission will formalize the application process and direct the applicants interested how to apply,” said Racing Commission Deputy Director India Hatch.

Hatch said La Mesa Racetrack in Raton no longer has a racing license, adding, “La Mesa’s racing license has expired and the commission saw no reason to revoke it.”

Hatch said the commission’s decision is based on a disciplinary hearing officer’s recommendation.

“The hearing officer said the license issued to La Mesa racetrack on Sept. 9, 2009 expired on Dec. 31, 2010,” Hatch said.

Hatch said the hearing officer’s recommendation was to treat the license as expired and there was no need to cancel or revoke the license.

Executive Director of the Quay County Gaming Authority Warren Frost addressed Tucumcari city commissioners at their regular meeting Thursday night. Commissioners passed and Mayor Jim Witcher signed a cooperation agreement between the city and Coronado Partners, the company that plans to apply for a license to build the track in Tucumcari.

“Finally, we’ve got to the point to where we can put together our application and they’re going to accept our application,” Frost said. “It was very good news and we’re extremely excited about that.

“The item on the agenda tonight is a development agreement between Coronado Partners and Mr. (Don) Chalmers and the city of Tucumcari. This is very similar to the one we did back in 2008. Essentially what it does is says the city of Tucumcari is going to do everything within its powers, within its constitutional authority to assist him in his application process and, if he gets the track, in putting it together.”

On Monday, Quay County commissioners signed a similar support agreement with Coronado Partners. Frost said Logan and San Jon officials have option agreements with Coronado Partners in which the cities will each receive one percent of race track and casino proceeds if it gets built in Tucumcari. Quay County and Tucumcari will each receive 1 1/2 percent of proceeds under their agreements with Coronado Partners.

At Monday’s county commission meeting, Frost mentioned the possibility of license applicants seeing new faces on the state racing commission.

“I assume there’s going to be a new racing commission. The chairman, Marty Cope, has resigned. There are four left and two or three of them’s term is out. I know some of them are trying to get reappointed and, like I said, I don’t know if they’ll have any success doing that,” Frost said.

Frost said other parties interested in the license may include investors from Lordsburg and the Downs at Santa Fe.

“You know the only people that have really been active up there and acting like they want to apply is us, which doesn’t mean there won’t be others,” Frost said.

“Think that they’ll look over the financials a little closer this time?” District 2 Commissioner Brad Bryant asked Frost Monday.

“Yes. Which, if they would have last time, we’d be racing now. There is going to be … and so we’re well aware of that and Mr. Chalmers is well aware of that. He’s getting his ducks in a row and that’s to our benefit. A stricter, stronger look at things can do nothing but be beneficial to us,” Frost said.