Racing groups favor sixth racino license

Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer

The New Mexico Horseman Association, the Jockeys’ Guild and representatives of Zia Park in Hobbs favored a sixth racino license during Thursday’s meeting of the New Mexico Racing Commission, according to Warren Frost, director of the Quay County Gaming Authority, who attended the meeting.

No decision was made by the commission during the meeting, which was held to gather information from the horse racing industry on whether another racing license should issued in the state, said Vince Mares, commission director.

Mares said the commission opened the floor to representatives of the horse racing industry to hear their pros and cons on a sixth license. He said the New Mexico Horse Breeders Association abstained from taking a side in this matter and has elected to wait to give an opinion until the location of the sixth license was announced.

“The meeting went well and I am feeling very positive about what was discussed,” Frost said.

Frost said having the support of the state’s horseman, breeders and jockeys will have huge influence towards getting a sixth license issued. He said while Zia Park’s support is also beneficial, the Hobbs racino’s managers have expressed their own interest in obtaining the sixth license.

Mares said Zia Parks wants to apply for the license in order to expand their existing gaming operations and have night-time racing at their track.

Frost said representatives for the Downs at Albuquerque, Ruidoso Downs, Sunland Park and SunRay Park, gave a presentation against the issuing of a sixth license. They argued there are not enough horses in New Mexico to grant a sixth license.

Frost said that immediately following the race tracks’ presentation, the breeders association asserted the tracks had cherry-picked the numbers to make their situation look worse than it was.

Mares said at the next commission meeting in August, the commissioners will be seeking public input about the pros and cons of issuing a sixth license. He said the commission is not likely to make a decision on the license until September or October.

Frost said he still plans on presenting data and documentation collected and compiled by the Arrowhead Center at New Mexico State University to the commission at a future meeting. He said the study shows the benefits to Tucumcari, Quay County and the state for issuing a sixth license, and placing the sixth facility in Tucumcari.

“I wanted to wait to see how this meeting went before presenting the commission with the data,” Frost said.

The study is part of the authority’s continued support of Don Chalmers’ original bid in 2009 to bring a racino to Tucumcari.

Chalmers is the principal backer to Coronado Partners LLC, an investment group that first applied for the sixth license that was eventually awarded to Raton. Canadian developer’s Michael Moldenhauer planned to build La Mesa a racetrack and casino in Raton.

The commission, however, said Moldenhauer failed to open the casino by a May 2010 deadline or show he had adequate financing to complete the racetrack. The New Mexico Gaming Control Board then voted to invalidate Moldenhauer’s gambling license. The racing commission then nullified his racing license.

Moldenhauer lost two appeals filed in New Mexico’s State Court of Appeals.

Two unnamed private entities have shown an interest in bringing the sixth racino license to Curry County, according to real estate agent Paul Stout and Clovis City Manager Joe Thomas. Interests in Hobbs, Lordsburg and Raton have also indicated they plan to apply for the license.

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