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

About 500 show for racino public comment session

 

October 7, 2018



CLOVIS — A vocal, vibrant, divided crowd of about 500 people greeted the New Mexico Racing Commission for its public comment session Friday.

While a clear majority supported proposals for a racino in Clovis, opponents made a strong showing.

Speakers during the two-hour gathering favored the project, 27-16.

When those opposing were asked to stand, about a third of the audience arose.

Community heavyweights were among the critics, including Clovis Mayor David Lansford and former Lt. Gov. Walter Bradley.

Supporters cited the economic benefits that potential racino investors have trumpeted — hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in annual economic impact, many of those dollars coming from out-of-state visitors.

Critics expressed concerns about the potential for gambling addictions, crime and increased need for public assistance.

Lansford said he was “speaking as an individual citizen of Clovis who happens to be the mayor.”

He told racing commissioners he believed a racino would likely bring an initial boon to the city but years later “there would be social implications that would be difficult to manage for our community.”

Lansford said he would be in support were it not for the hundreds of slot machines that would come with the racetrack if it’s awarded Clovis.

“The 800 slot machines creates the overall negative for me. There’s no way to win against the armed one-handed bandit,” Lansford said.

Bradley’s comments exceeded the three-minute time limit established by commissioners, drawing several boos.

The commission staff at one point asked the crowd to remain respectful to all speakers.

In all, four current public officials spoke in opposition to the proposed racino — State Rep. Randal Crowder, R-Clovis, City Commissioner Gary Elliott and Curry County Commissioner Robert Thornton joining Lansford.

Four current office holders also spoke in favor of the plan.

Clovis City Commissioner Sandra Taylor-Sawyer received a loud ovation when she declared that bringing a racino to Clovis is “a no-brainer.”

Amy Sellers-Parker drew applause when she read a letter from City Commissioner Fidel Madrid saying “the only negatives we are having are from the same people who are against everything.”

City Commissioners Chris Bryant and Helen Casaus also spoke in support of a racino.

The most prominent neutral voice came from 27th Special Operations Wing Director of Staff Rick Masters. He said “the formal and official position of Cannon Air Force Base is we take no position on this matter,” noting the base is prohibited by federal law from doing so.

That did not stop Yvonne Greco, who is stationed at Cannon, from supporting the proposal.

“This would be a fantastic opportunity,” Greco said. “There’s so many active-duty military members that have horses, that enjoy horses, that want to have this opportunity to go to other places and grow in the horse community.”

Representatives of other New Mexico racetracks said the market is already over saturated without adding a sixth license to the mix.

Perhaps the most emotional testimony of the day came from Dorothy McKibben.

“I’ve heard a lot today about gambling addiction,” she told commissioners.

“I am the first one to stand up and say I have a gambling problem. But you know what? It’s like anything else. There’s alcohol addiction, there’s cigarette addiction, there’s sex addiction, there’s drug addiction, there’s thousands of types of addictions ... but I did not lose everything I had to addiction because you know why?

“Because I said I’m not going to let that happen. If you have it in your heart and you’re strong enough, you can beat any addiction, I don’t care who you are.”

 

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