La Mesa’s civil suit against New Mexico Racing Commission should not impact sixth license

By Thomas Garcia

QCS Senior Writer

tgarcia@qcsunonline.com

The New Mexico Racing Commission plans to address a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court by a failed Raton based racetrack-casino developer but has postponed again a public input session concerning a sixth racing license.

The final agenda for their meeting Thursday shows commission officials have failed to place the public input session on the agenda for the fifth straight month.

In October, Commission Director Vince Mares said there would be a public input session either on Nov. 21 or sometime in January because the commission does not normally meet in December.

However, the racing commission rescheduled the Nov. 1 meeting for Dec. 5 and neither that agenda nor the latest list the public input session.

The agenda does have an executive session listed to discuss the civil suit filed by La Mesa Racetrack and Casino, LP, the developer of the failed La Mesa Racetrack and Casino in Raton.

That suit, filed Dec. 30 in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque, seeks damages from the racing commission and individual commissioners but is not seeking to regain a racino license, according to attorney Sam Bregman, of the Bregman and Loman law firm of Albuquerque, which is representing La Mesa.

Besides the commission, the suit names individual commissioners Marty Cope, Arnold Rael, Larry Delgado, Thomas Eddie Fowler and Ray Willis as defendants. Of the defendants, only Willis is still a member of the commission.

The suit alleges misconduct on the part of racing commission, allowing the time to run out on La Mesa’s license intentionally and causing the loss of La Mesa’s racing and gaming license. The suit states that former commissioner Marty Cope was motivated by a personal friendship to a rival investor and “intentionally, willfully and purposefully took action to hinder La Mesa’s progress and to sabotage La Mesa’s racino project.”

Cope could not be reached for comment.

According to court documents, the commission and former commissioners violated La Mesa’s rights to due process and equal protection by refusing to act on La Mesa’s requests for amended racing dates and letting La Mesa’s license expire.

Michael Moldenhauer, primary partner in the La Mesa venture, was awarded the license in 2009 and planned to open La Mesa, a racetrack and casino, in Raton. However he failed either to open a casino or show he had adequate financing to complete the racetrack by the commission’s May 2010 deadline. The New Mexico Gaming Control Board then voted to cancel Moldenhauer’s gambling license, and the racing commission nullified his racing license.

The suit alleges that the commission allowed the time to run out on their license intentionally causing the loss of La Mesa’s racing and gaming license.

Vince Mares, director of the racing commission could not be reached for comment.

Logan attorney Warren Frost said the Quay County Gaming Authority is still planning to present data to the commission that supports a racino in Quay County when a public input session is held in Albuquerque. He said he will continue to be vigilant.

Frost said the authority has been patiently waiting since March 2011, when it submitted its application for the sixth license. The Quay County application is currently the only one on file with the racing commission.

After the decision to nullify La Mesa’s license was upheld by the New Mexico Supreme Court in 2013, the racing commission questioned whether a sixth license should be issued. The commission held a public session on that question with horse racing industry officials in August.

A second public input session involving current racetrack-casino owners was not scheduled for any of the four racing commission meetings that have been held since August.

The Quay County authority has been actively campaigning for the sixth license since 2009 in hopes of locating a racetrack-casino in Tucumcari. The authority is supporting Albuquerque auto dealer Don Chalmers’ original bid for the license. Chalmers is the principal partner in Coronado Partners LLC, the 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.

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