Officials ask Gov. Martinez for help

Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer

The Tucumcari City and Quay County commissioners unanimously supported the adoption of resolutions respectively calling for Gov. Susana Martinez to instruct the New Mexico Gaming Commission to proceed with the issuing of the sixth horse racing license for the economic good of the state.

“We believe that the awarding of the license makes sense for New Mexico, whether it is locate in Tucumcari as we hope or in another community in the state,” said Franklin McCasland, county commission chair.

City commissioners approved resolution 2015-32 during Thursday’s regular meeting and the county’s commissioners approved resolution 10 during Monday’s regular meeting.

This resolutions ask for help from Martinez in urging the racing commission to move forward with the process of awarding the sixth license, said Tucumcari Mayor Robert Lumpkin.

In both resolutions, city and county commissioners applaud the tireless work and dedication of Martinez in promoting economic development across the state, including a visit to Tucumcari by Martinez in October 2014, where she celebrated with the community the planned $4.5 million expansion of the Tucumcari Mountain Cheese Factory.

Martinez has had a direct involvement in the support and development of economic growth throughout the state, said Warren Frost, race track coordinator, Greater Tucumcari Economic Development Corporation.

“We are certainly not making a demand upon Gov. Martinez,” Frost said. “We are simply asking that she put this on her to do list.”

Frost said the EDC wants the sixth license to be awarded to Tucumcari, but regardless of where it is awarded and located it will be a huge economic benefit to the state. He said Martinez appoints the members of the racing commission and has the authority to instruct them to proceed with setting up the application process if she so desired.

Frost said with the current Indian gaming compacts the New Mexico Racing Commission can award one more horse racing license in the state. He said through studies developed by Dr. Christopher Erickson, an economist with New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center, the sixth license will generate gross receipts of $79 million in the first year and increase to $89 million by the fifth year.

McCasland said the study shows that directly and indirectly the license will bring 1,284 jobs to an area and that will increase to 1,458 jobs by the fifth year. He said the state share of the gambling proceeds will be at least $16 million in the first year, increasing to more than $17 million in the following years.

Frost said the best part is that the additional tax revenue will mostly be generated from Texas residents and travelers passing through the state.
The study is part of the only application that has been submitted to the Racing Commission in 2014 by the Quay County Gaming Authority. The application called for the building of Coronado Park racino a facility with up to 600 slot machines and a one-mile dirt racetrack. The racing season is expected to include 55 days of live racing, with 60 percent of the races to involve thoroughbreds and 40 percent quarter horses.

The application process for the sixth license had been halted since 2011 by the previous holder of the license La Mesa. The racing commission could have restarted the application process following a state Court of Appeals decision on March 21, 2014 upholding the commission’s decision to yank the license once held by La Mesa Racino. The La Mesa development was planned to open in Raton by Canadian developer Michael Moldenhauer.

However even though the legal path was clear for the racing commission to re-open the application process it instead decided to hold off on that course of action. Instead the commission voted to hear views from current racino owners and the state’s horse racing industry in public hearings.
Since that time, the racing commission has not placed the sixth racino license on the agenda for discussion or vote. Chalmers, the then-principal partner in Coronado Partners LLC, died in April 2014.

Frost said Chalmers’ family is still very interested in developing the property. Other parties continue to show interest and know just how much of a positive economic impact this sixth license would be for a community and the state.

On June 27 the Albuquerque-based Laguna Development Corporation, owned by the Pueblo of Laguna, hosted a multi-purpose event to share its idea and prospects of bringing a “racino” – a combination horse race track and gambling casino – to Clovis with city and county government officials, business owners and other interested parties from Curry and Roosevelt counties.

Frost said since then the members of the Quay County Gaming Authority decided it would serve the community better if the organization was dissolved and the duties of that organization be transferred over to the Greater Tucumcari EDC. He said he is still acting as race track coordinator.

The same members of the authority serve on the EDC. It is more efficient to merge the responsibilities and duties of the authority with the EDC that works toward the economic growth of the region, Frost added.

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