QCS Senior Writer
The race isn’t quite on, yet, but the New Mexico Racing Commission plans to discuss Thursday how they should proceed concerning the state’s sixth and final racing license.
The latest development could set off a rush of gambling interests across eastern New Mexico, where potential investors have been racing behind the scenes to put together proposals for the state’s only remaining license.
The racing license will be a discussion item only and the commission will be taking no action on it, said commission Director Vince Mares.
Mares said Robert Goughty III, the commission’s chairman, is going to address the public during open session about what direction the commission wants to take concerning the license. He said the commission wants to take time to research the issue further.
“We still feel it is a good thing and positive step forward to have the sixth license listed on the racing commission’s agenda,” said Warren Frost, who represents the Quay County Gaming Authority, the only entity that has filed a petition to get the license.
Two unnamed private entities have recently searched for land near Clovis in hopes of obtaining the sixth racino license, according to real estate agent Paul Stout and City Manager Joe Thomas. Interests in Hobbs, Lordsburg and Raton have also indicated they plan to apply for the license.
Frost said he has heard that the commission wants to discuss their procedure and hear from the public during their July meeting. He said depending on what the commission decides Thursday, the local authority plans to hold a public meeting in Tucumcari within the next 10 days.
“The meeting will be to explain what the situation is, where we stand and how they can help us at this point,” Frost said.
Mares said the commission wants to hold public meetings to get input from horse breeders, horsemen and the public concerning the license. He said while many have shown interest in issuing a sixth license, there has also been some opposition to it.
“The commission wants to be transparent when it comes to making the decision concerning the sixth license,” Mares said.
Frost said he would like to see Tucmcari area residents appear at public meetings in Albuquerque to show the commission their desire for a sixth license is strong and that Tucumcari is a viable site for the license.
The Quay County Gaming Authority has shown continued interest and support of Don Chalmer’s bid to bring the racino to Tucumcari since the original bid in 2009.
Chalmers is the principal backer to Coronado Partners LLC an investment group that first applied for the sixth license that was awarded to Raton.
Canadian developer Michael Moldenhauer planned to open La Mesa a racetrack and casino in Raton, while there was an official groundbreaking no actual structures or track was built at the site.
The La Mesa group’s failure to open the casino by May 2010 or show it had adequate financing to complete the racetrack resulted in the New Mexico Gaming Control Board voting to invalidate their gaming license which was followed by the nullification of their racing license by the racing commission.
Moldenhauer filed appeals in the state Court of Appeals in 2011 disputing the NMGCB’s and racing commission’s decisions though both appeals were denied.
In March of 2011, the racing commission reopened the application process for the racing and gaming licenses, but the process came to a halt after an 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.
La Mesa first appeal argued that the NMGCB failed to give due process. In their appeal they argued they submitted a petition for extension of deadlines to open, but were unable to provided such documentation.
Counsel for the NMGCB stated there was a tent facility, which was set up to temporarily, house a casino, but there was no inventory of gaming machines, restrooms or infrastructure to monitor the gaming machines.
La Mesa’s second appeal disputed the racing commission nullification of their license arguing there was no final written order or action taken by the commission to officially revoke their racing license.
Mares said the nullification was based on the expiration of the license and the commission decided it did not have to take action at the meeting because the issued license was expired.
The court denied the La Mesa’s groups appeals.
Racing commission to discuss final racing license