The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Racino candidates number 11 now

Racing Commission: 3 more letters of intent sent before Monday deadline


August 2, 2018

Just as a horse race can change suddenly and rather unexpectedly, so too, apparently, can the contest for the state’s sixth and last available racino license.

The New Mexico Racing Commission notified The News late Wednesday afternoon of its “final list” of letters of intent to apply for the license, which included three additional entities not included in the initial list released Monday after the 4:30 p.m. deadline that day.

That brings the total tally of interested entities to 11, five of which are eyeing Raton, three for Clovis and one each for Tucumcari, Lordsburg and Las Vegas, NM.

Two of the new letters were dated July 30 and one from July 26; all three come from groups with designs to establish a racetrack/casino in Raton.

The first batch of eight letters came following an Inspection of Public Records request from The News requesting all letters of intent received by NMRC as of 4:30 p.m. on July 30, the deadline imposed less than two weeks earlier when the commission delayed the application deadline to Aug. 17.

NMRC’s executive director said Wednesday it took a little more time to process the newer letters, but among them “the intent was there to meet the July 30 deadline,” and that the letters were vetted by the commission’s legal counsel and the groups were all eligible to continue with the application process.

Izzy Trejo said it was doubtful there would be any more updates to that list, since “we’re a couple days after the deadline already.”

The new letters are from The Gillmann Group out of Las Vegas, Nevada, WhiteSand Gaming, LLC out of Atlantic City, New Jersey and the Jicarilla Apache Nation, headquartered east of Farmington in Dulce, New Mexico.

The letters of intent are only that, indicating the groups intend to submit racino applications to NMRC in the next two weeks. The state has said it aims to award the last racino before the end of Gov. Susana Martinez’s term on Dec. 31.

The late updates to the list change the racino-speculation conversation somewhat. Vision 2020, a group advocating Clovis as the best location for a racino, said in a meeting Tuesday evening that their argument was supported by the fact that more groups singled out Clovis more than any other city. At that time, only two groups were known to have pledged for Raton.

In spite of that change, advocates for a racino in the eastern part of the state were still confident in their odds.

“The problem with Raton is that a racino won’t work there. If it would they would have one now, because they were awarded it back in 2008,” said Quay County attorney Warren Frost, referring to the collapse almost 10 years ago of Raton’s effort to implement its racino license, which was subsequently revoked. “It’s not because Raton’s not a nice community or that they don’t deserve economic development. It’s because Colorado already has gaming. If you’re somebody sitting in Pueblo or Colorado Springs, you’re not going to drive down to Raton. You’re going to go to the mountains or Cripple Creek to gamble.”

Frost, a longtime advocate for a racino in Tucumcari, previously pointed out Tucumcari's likelihood of attracting visitors (and dollars) from Texas. Clovis' Gayla Brumfield and Tom Martin made a similar point while presenting Tuesday for Vision 2020, and they both said Wednesday they were also surprised at the wave of contenders for Raton.

“This certainly does make it a lot more interesting,” Martin told The News. “In this case, though, I am going to go back to the feasibility study, and I think that will be good for everybody because it will bring all aspects into it and will point to the best city. Obviously, I think Clovis is the center of the universe...”

Martin referred to a comprehensive study the NMRC said it would conduct concerning the prospects of various racino locations. It was “to get the ball rolling on the feasibility studies” that the state pushed the application deadline in the first place, Trejo said Wednesday.

As the race gets more crowded, Brumfield said it was just more evidence of how fruitful another racino could be.

“It just shows us once again how important this sixth license is, how many people are after it,” she said. “But I still believe that Clovis is the best location for it.”


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