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

Judge rejects racino lawsuit dismissal, at least for now


April 3, 2019

ALBUQUERQUE — Citing objections from other applicants, a judge on Thursday declined to rule on a motion to dismiss the lawsuit that last year halted the racino award selection process, according to state officials.

The New Mexico Racing Commission, previously poised to announce in December which of five applicants would receive the state’s sixth and final racing license, delayed that decision following a petition for injunctive relief filed Nov. 28 in the 2nd Judicial District. That suit, filed by Hidalgo Downs, LLC and other individually named plaintiffs attendant to Lordsburg’s racino bid, stated concerns with alleged flaws in a feasibility study completed earlier that month. Attorneys representing NMRC said they would postpone making a racino decision until that suit was resolved, out of concern for the award being “tainted” by pending litigation.

On Wednesday, attorneys for both Hidalgo Downs and the state filed a “stipulated motion for dismissal” on the grounds that “the parties have reached a mutually acceptable resolution to all of the claims presented in this case.”

That agreement specified that NMRC “will not rely on the recommendations” made in the Nov. 15 feasibility study by Convergence Strategy Group, the study at issue in Hidalgo Downs’ suit. However, commissioners’ decision “may be based upon all information known to and made available to the NMRC, including information, excluding the recommendations, contained within the study.”

According to the state attorney general’s director of communications, that agreement didn’t sit right with other racino applicants. In a motion hearing Thursday morning, Judge Carl Butkus heard those concerns and gave them 30 days to file a reply to the motion to dismiss.

“Judge Butkus did not sign-off on the Stipulated Motion to Dismiss because the other applicants objected, alleging that ... they weren’t involved in crafting the settlement and that it is flawed because it didn’t mention the second, feasibility study,” David Carl, a spokesman for the AG's office, wrote in an email to The News.

Carl said the other applicants also “believe that (NMRC) Chairman (Ray) Willis has a conflict of interest” and “did not have the authority to sign the agreement.”

Of four other applicant groups vying for the license, three propose projects in Clovis and one for Tucumcari.

Carl did not specify what other applicant groups objected Thursday to the motion, but court records show representatives for each of the four other groups filed motions to intervene in the suit “because their rights are at stake.”

The suit remains pending. NMRC meets next April 18.


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