Sixth racing license still up in air

By Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer

The New Mexico Racing Commission has again failed to place a sixth license on the agenda for its October meeting.

Since the sixth license received a hearing in July, the commission has indicated that public discussion would be held at subsequent meetings, but did not place that agenda item on its August or September agendas.

“The commission has been having a lot of internal discussion about the sixth license and wants to assure the public that this is not a moot issue,” said Commission Director Vince Mares.

Mares said the commission seeks to complete its reviews of information from the horse racing industry in July and from the August meeting of the New Mexico Gaming Control Board before placing the racing license on the table for discussion again.

Mares said there would be a public input session in either November or January. The commission does not meet in December.

Warren Frost, executive director the Quay County Gaming Authority, said, “We’re ready to go at any time,” to continue its application for the sixth license. “All we need is a high sign.”

The Quay County Gaming Authority is preparing to proceed when the public input session is placed on the racing commission’s agenda and press forward when the application process is reopened, said Warren Frost, authority executive director.

The authority is currently the only entity that has submitted an application for the license, Frost said. The authority’s application was the only to be submitted in March 2011, but an injunction requested by Canadian developer Michael Moldenhauer, the former license holder, in Colfax County ordered the commission to stop accepting applications until Moldenhauer’s two appeals could be heard.

Moldenhauer was awarded the license in 2009 and planned to open La Mesa, a racetrack and casino, in Raton.

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

Moldenhauer lost both appeals.

With Moldenhauer’s appeals defeated, the Quay County authority had hoped the commission would again open the application process, allowing the authority to update its application and have it considered again. Instead, the commission elected in July to hold two sessions, one for the horse racing industry and one for the public, instead of immediately opening of the application process.

Frost said once the public input session is scheduled, he will present data and documentation collected and compiled by the Arrowhead Center at New Mexico State University to the commission. He said the study shows the benefits to Tucumcari, Quay County and the state of placing a sixth racetrack-casino in Tucumcari.

The Arrowhead Center 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 license eventually awarded to Moldenhauer and Raton.

Frost said the communities of Quay County are contractually obligated to support Chalmers application, in return for 5 percent of the net profits.

Tucumcari, the host city, will receive 2 percent of net profits, while, Logan, San Jon and Quay County will receive 1 percent each.

Several other entities and groups have also indicated they plan to apply for the license.

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. A group based in Lordsburg, 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.

Hobbs-based Zia Parks, which is owned and operated by Penn National Gaming, voiced their support a sixth license. Mares said Zia Parks wants to apply for the license to expand their existing gaming operations and have nighttime racing at their track. Eric Schippers, senior vice president of public relations for Penn National Gaming, could not be reached for comment.`

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