La Mesa’s final appeal denied for racino license

Quay County is back in the running for the state's last racetrack and casino license after the Supreme Court of New Mexico denied La Mesa's final appeal on Monday.

"This means that it is finally over; racing in Raton is no more," said Warren Frost, executive director of the Quay County Gaming Authority.

Frost said La Mesa has no more appeals left to file and there is another opportunity to convince the commission that Tucumcari is where the state's next racetrack and casino needs to be.

There will be no decision made concerning the application process until the commission receives the court documentation from the Supreme Court, said Vince Mares, director of the racing commission.

Mares said once the commission has received the Supreme Courts ruling, they will decide if the application process will be added to next month's agenda as a discussion or action item.

The defeated appeal was filed in April by La Mesa's developer Michael Moldenhauer and was the last legal option for Raton's proposed racetrack and casino.

The appeal disputed the state Court of Appeals decision in March that upheld the Commission's nullification of La Mesa's racing license in 2010.

The decision by Court of Appeals Judge Michael D. Bustamante upheld the commission's decision, ruling there was nothing in the final order that could be repealed. La Mesa's arguments were moot, the decision stated.

La Mesa had argued there was no final written order or action taken during Commission's May 2010 meeting to revoke their racing license.

The commission had awarded La Mesa the license in June 2009 over other competitors, including Quay County.

The nullification was based on the expiration of the license and La Mesa's failure to open the casino by May 2010 or show it had adequate financing to complete the racetrack.

Mares said the commission decided it did not have to take action at the meeting because the issued license had already expired. Because of the expiration, he said, there was no need to revoke the license.

The application process for the license was reopened in March 2011, but an injunction filed in Colfax County halted the process by ordering the commission to stop accepting applications until La Mesa's two appeals could be heard.

Quay County was the only entity to submit an application before the injunction was granted.

Frost said if the commission were to reopen the application process, Quay County would update its application. He said this litigation is the only thing that held Quay County back the past two years, and it is good news that the legal matter has finally been resolved.

Frost said he expects the commission to open the license application process at its next meeting in June. He said after a five-year wait the only thing standing in Quay County's way is the competition.

Clovis is the most recent entity to show interest in bidding for the state's final racing license. City Manager Joe Thomas confirmed in April that a national gaming concern had contacted his office within the last year to express an interest in locating a racino in or near Clovis.

Paul Stout, a rancher and wind energy entrepreneur, confirmed he represents a client interested in the racino license and has looked at property near Clovis.

Additionally, a second Raton investment group headed by former Raton City Manager Pete Kampfer has also indicated interest in seeking the racino license. Penn National Gambling, which owns Zia Park in Hobbs is rumored to be seeking the second license, possibly to expand its existing casino.

The Lordsburg group, which lost a bid for the license along with Tucumcari in 2008, has indicated it plans to re-apply if the racing commission offers the license.

Frost said there are rumors that another investment group besides Don Chalmers and Coronado Partners LLC might apply for the casino license in Tucumcari.

Frost said the communities of Quay County have an agreement with Don Chalmers to support his application for the license. He said the communities are contractually obligated to support Chalmers application, in return for 5 percent of the net profits.

Tucumcari will receive 2 percent while, Logan San Jon and Quay County will receive 1 percent each.

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