Council works to clear appeal

The New Mexico Racing Commission's legal council is trying to knock out a final appeal from a group trying to put a race track and casino in Raton, with the aims to make those licenses available again as soon as possible.

La Mesa was awarded the state's final gaming and racing licenses in June 2009, but those licenses were nullified by the New Mexico Gaming Control Board the following year.

The nullification of the gaming license was upheld June 12 by the New Mexico Court of Appeals, but the nullification of the racing license is still in the court system.

Warren Frost is executive director of the Quay County Gaming Authority, which intends to apply for the licenses when they are available again. Frost believes Tucumcari, which lost out to Raton in 2009, is at an advantage due to its promixity to Texas.

Vince Mares, director of the racing commission, said the council has yet to draft or submit any motions related to La Mesa's final appeal, which is still being heard in the State Court of Appeals.

Mares said the commission recognizes the opportunities the sixth racing license would bring to an area and the state as a whole — $15 million in gaming tax revenue, Frost argues.

"This license does no good to anyone being tied up in legalities," Mares said.

Mares said since the announcement of the court's ruling to up hold the gaming control boards decision, there have been phone inquires to the racing commission if they were going to reopen the application process for the final license. But he tells them nothing happens until the appeal is adjudicated.

When La Mesa first appealed the NMGCB's, it did so with the claim the board failed to give due process.

Peggy Hardwick, senior staff counsel for the board, said La Mesa argued it submitted a petition for extension of deadlines to open, but so far have provided no documentation of such.

Hardwick said to meet a deadline, La Mesa set up a tent facility as a temporary casino, but there was no inventory of gaming machines, restrooms or infrastructure to monitor the gaming machines.

In March of 2011, the racing commission had reopened the application process for the racing and gaming licenses, but the process came to a halt after a injunction was filed in Colfax County. The injunction ordered the New Mexico Racing Commission to stop accepting applications until La Mesa's appeals could be heard.

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