In the race for New Mexico’s sixth racetrack and casino, the Economic Development Corporation of Lea County is rooting for Tucumcari.
The New Mexico Racing Commission is weighing benefits of five applications for another “racinco” — one for Lordsburg, one for Tucumcari and three for Clovis.
EDCLC president and CEO Steve Vierck said, “After much review, EDC’s position is that an additional racetrack and casino within southeast New Mexico would adversely impact our economy, tax revenues and the racing industry.”
A letter from EDCLC board chairman Finn Smith to the racing commission dated Thursday offered greater detail, urging the commission to study carefully the adverse impact on Lea County if a facility similar to Zia Park Casino Hotel and Racetrack is allowed in Clovis.
Tucumcari is farther north and would attract the Amarillo market, Smith pointed out, whereas a facility in Clovis would draw on Lubbock and some Lea County players.
Lordsburg, on the other hand, is in southwestern New Mexico near the Arizona border. Arizona already has gaming, so placing a casino and racetrack in Lordsburg is deemed unlikely.
Smith noted Zia Park employs more than 200 residents year-round and almost 300 during racing season, with additional jobs in the county associated with dozens of area businesses, such as hotels, apartment complexes, restaurants and retail markets.
“A new casino in Clovis will simply shift jobs and revenue from Lea County to our neighbors to the north, risk any new investment in our community and result in an even more saturated casino market in the state’s southeastern region,” Smith said.
His letter asks that the commission consider these negative effects as it determines the location of a new gaming and racing facility in New Mexico.
“If the commission strongly desires to add a new gaming and racing facility in New Mexico, consideration should be given to locating the facility in a location that has the least impact on existing racetracks and casinos by primarily generating new customers versus shifting them from existing facilities,” Smith said.
He noted that Tucumcari is in need of economic development and is located on I-40, a short drive from a large Amarillo market.
He concluded, “Should you ultimately decide to award a license, please understand that a new casino in Clovis will likely prove detrimental to our local economy, diversification and the health of the racing industry.”
A racing commission decision is expected by year’s end and the commission still accepts comments on its website.