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

State rep: Racino not guaranteed

Randal Crowder says issue has ‘ripped the city of Clovis in half’


October 31, 2018

CLOVIS — A local state representative is not convinced the New Mexico Racing Commission’s planned award of a sixth racino is a “foregone conclusion.” Nor does he think Clovis is clearly in support of hosting one.

Rep. Randal Crowder, R-Clovis, said as much before state officials in a meeting last week of the Legislative Finance Committee in Santa Fe.

“This sixth racino has just literally ripped the city of Clovis in half,” he said. “The mayor is opposed to the racino, about half the city commissioners are opposed, half support. Half the county commissioners oppose, half of them support.”

Crowder addressed the acting executive director of the New Mexico Gaming Control Board, who spoke during Wednesday’s meeting of the finance committee.

Donovan Lieurance had requested an increase of $858,000 to NMGCB’s fiscal year 2019 budget in anticipation of the planned racino project for which three cities — Clovis, Tucumcari and Lordsburg — are in contention.

“The increase is primarily for personnel associated with the sixth horse racing license,” Lieurance said.

NMRC announced this spring it would award the license before the end of this year, and this month declared a tentative time table to announce a decision in early December. Of five groups angling for the prize, three propose setting up the horse racetrack and casino in Clovis.

During a public comment period Oct. 5 following presentations from investors, Clovis Mayor David Lansford said he was speaking “as an individual citizen” when he opposed the racino. City Commissioner Gary Elliott and Curry County Commissioner Robert Thornton echoed Lansford’s opposition, while city commissioners Sandra Taylor-Sawyer, Fidel Madrid, Chris Bryant and Helen Casaus expressed their support.

All told, only one of five county commissioners spoke one way or another on the racino, and only five of the eight city commissioners did as much.

Overall, the public comment period saw speakers favoring the project 27-16 in the racing commissioners’ first and only organized visit to Clovis thus far.

Speaking during the finance committee meeting last week, Crowder did not detail what other commissioners he believed supported or opposed the racino. Speaking with The News on Tuesday, he said he believes “there are a couple of (county commissioners) that were opposed,” and that he “believe(s) there are two or three in the city.”

He maintained that he was “adamantly opposed,” to the racino and described conversations with other state representatives who told him they regretted having one in their districts.

Crowder also told The News about a petition with 400 signatures from citizens opposing the racino in Clovis. When told that those in favor of a racino reported having at least as many signatures, he replied, “I’m sure they do.”

As to whether or not a license would actually be awarded, he described concerns from other racetracks in the state that a sixth location would simply dip into their customer base. That would disagree with NMRC’s mission statement to protect the prosperity of horse racing in the state, Crowder said.

“Some people are so upset, they’re already preparing for a lawsuit,” he said. “If in fact (NMRC’s) charge is to protect that prosperity, and what they’re doing is impairing the other racetracks and other casinos, I can see where they’re talking about doing a lawsuit.”

Which was all to say that Crowder was reluctant to approve the gaming board’s budget increase request until there was a little more certainty of the last racino taking off.

“Looking at your budget, it’s indicating the same thing, that this is a foregone conclusion, this is going to happen,” he said. “I don’t agree that that’s an accurate statement. I don’t control that, I know the Racing Commission does...”

Lieurance’s request was tabled for a later meeting.


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