Officials await ruling on racing license appeals

Thomas Garcia

A pair of appeals filed by a Raton-based racetrack and casino have gone through the briefing stage and are now awaiting a ruling in the New Mexico Court of Appeals, with local officials optimistic the rulings will give Tucumcari another chance at a racino.

La Mesa has a pair of appeals with New Mexico Gaming Control Board regarding its decision to void its gaming license, said Peggy Hardwick, NMGCB’s senior staff counsel.

Hardwick said the appeals will be submitted at the same time for a panel of judges.

“In 30 to 60 days we will have a better idea on where we are heading,” said Warren Frost, executive director of the Quay County Gaming Authority, “though once the matter is handed over to the judges, they operate on their own schedule.”

The state’s final gaming and racing licenses, which Tucumcari had hoped to land, was awarded to La Mesa in June 2009. But Hardwick said the licenses were voided because it failed to meet board requirements to open on May 1, 2010 and hold a race meet under the racing license.

Hardwick said:

• La Mesa argued it submitted a petition to extend the racing dates to the New Mexico Racing Commission, but did not provide documentation of the petition.

• La Mesa set up a tent to house a temporary casino facility to use the gaming license, but the tent was not properly equipped. “They had no inventory of gaming machines in the tent, which they had set up on a slab of concrete,” Hardwick said. “The tent had no restrooms and had no lines available to operate the gaming’s central monitoring system.”

In March of last year, the racing commission announced it would open the application process for entities interested in obtaining the final racing license. That application process was later halted in September when La Mesa filed an injunction approved by Colfax County District Judge John Paternoster. Patern-oster’s ruling ordered the New Mexico Racing Commission to stop taking applications for the state’s final racing license until La Mesa’s appeals can be heard.

The appeals were originally set to be heard in Colfax County, but were later moved to the State Court of Appeals.

“Despite the filling of the appeals, we are still extremely optimistic, as everyone else should be,” Frost said. “We are covering every angle possible.”

Frost said it is a good thing to have the appeals moved out of the Colfax County District court to the State Court of Appeals, because it shortens the time the appeal will be argued.

“It has been very frustrating,” Frost said, “having to wait for the process to be completed.”