New Mexico regulators delay decision on racino license
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Bidders vying for a license to build New Mexico’s sixth and final horse racetrack and casino will have to wait for a final decision after regulators on Thursday put off awarding the coveted license when an applicant sought a preliminary injunction.
The New Mexico Racing Commission voted unanimously to table the decision. It was not immediately clear when the panel would take up the matter again.
Chairman Ray Willis said it was in the best interest of the commission to seek legal advice before going forward.
Attorneys for Hidalgo Downs, a group that wants to build a racino in southwestern New Mexico, filed a petition in court last week in an effort to put the brakes on the process. The filing contends the commission has not sufficiently studied the issue.
In addition, the state’s five existing racinos have voiced concerns about adding a sixth venue, saying doing so would hurt their business.
Under state compacts with casino-operating Native American tribes, only six racinos are allowed in New Mexico. The five existing establishments are in Hobbs, Ruidoso, Farmington, Albuquerque and Sunland Park.
There are three proposals for a racino in the eastern New Mexico community of Clovis, including one that would feature a moving grandstand to allow spectators to travel alongside running horses.
Tucumcari, along historic Route 66 in eastern New Mexico, is the location cited in two other proposals. Hidalgo Downs wants to build its racino in Lordsburg, near the Arizona border.
The possibility of a new venue has generated enthusiasm among investors and tourism officials who crafted proposals for regions that have struggled to attract visitors or build steady economic development.
Racing Commission Executive Director Izzy Trejo said 11 investment groups submitted letters of intent in August, but some failed to submit formal applications by the deadline.
In a Nov. 13 letter to the commission, the state’s existing racinos described New Mexico’s racing industry as “far from healthy and not in need of additional forces creating additional downward pressures.”
Trejo said the decision to solicit new applications came from recent interest from a handful of entities. He declined to elaborate.