By Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer
A letter will be submitted today, asking the New Mexico Racing Commission’s executive director to expedite plans for a sixth New Mexico racing license, said Warren Frost, attorney for the Greater Tucumcari Economic Development Corp.
Frost said the letter is being drafted by the GTEDC, with the goal of conveying to the racing commission the vast amount of potential revenue the state is losing by not issuing the license.
He said a sixth license could generate up to $10 million annually for the state at a time when lawmakers are debating where to cut state funding.
Frost, a Logan attorney, was the director of the Quay County Gaming Authority before it was dissolved in 2014 because many of its members were also members of the GTEDC. The authority, along with the support of the late Don Chalmers, the then principal partner in Coronado Partners LLC, applied for the sixth license in 2007.
The plan in 2007 was to open a “racino” – a combination horse race track and gambling casino — in Tucumcari. The communities of Quay County would receive a percentage of the revenue with their support.
“I am very much still spearheading the efforts to bring a racino to Quay County,” Frost said on Monday.
Frost said in 2015 the city of Tucumcari and Quay County commissioners still unanimously supported the adoption of resolutions respectively calling for Gov. Susana Martinez to instruct the racing commission to proceed with the issuing of a sixth horse racing license for the economic good of the state.
The racing commission in 2009 awarded a sixth license to investors at La Mesa Park in Raton.
But the La Mesa group’s license was nullified because it failed to open the racetrack and casino by May 2010 or show it had adequate financing to complete the project.
The issue was tied up in court until 2013, but the racing commission is again free to issue the license.
Don Chalmers died in 2014 after a two-year bout with cancer, but his heirs remain interested in funding a racino in Tucumcari, Frost said.
Other investors are also interested in the license, including a group with land options in Clovis.
Ismael Trejo was appointed the racing commission’s executive director in April. He said one of his priorities is to regain the confidence of the public after statewide doping scandals.
“The commission has made great strides to strengthen the regulations of the industry,” Trejo said in a telephone interview late last month. “We need to gain the trust of the public to bring them back to horse racing.”
Frost said the potential benefits to building a racino in Tucumcari remain as bright as they were in 2007 when a study was conducted by Christopher Erickson, an economist with New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center.
According to the Arrowhead Center’s study, the benefits to the state and Quay County include:
Gross receipts from operations generated directly and indirectly for a proposed Coronado Park in Tucumcari are expected to be $79 million in the first year of operation, increasing to $89 million by the fifth year; profits generated directly and indirectly from operations start at $26 million in the first year and increase to $31 million by the fifth year.
The increased revenue to the state from gaming at Coronado Park, net of the possible impact of reduced revenue to other gaming sites within the state, is expected to increase from about $45 million in the first year to about $51.3 million in the fifth year.
The projected loss of gaming revenue to other state racinos is expected to total $10.6 million in the first year and about $12 million in the fifth year.
Employment generated directly and indirectly from operations of the racetrack and casino are expected to be 1,284 jobs in the first year, increasing to 1,458 jobs in the fifth year.