Appeals Court to Decide on New Mexico Racino License Disagreement

Published: September 6, 2023, 03:08h. 

Last updated: September 6, 2023, 03:09h.

A casino development company involved in a long-standing battle for a racino license in Tucumcari, N.M. has launched another effort to achieve their goal.

Coronado Partners, New Mexico, sixth racino license
The New Mexico Court of Appeals in Albuquerque, above, will hear Coronado Partners’ plea to resurrect the controversial sixth racino license selection process. (Image: New Mexico Courts)

Coronado Partners has filed an appeal against a district court ruling in Albuquerque which stated that the New Mexico Racing Commission (NMRC) is not obligated to issue a sixth racino license in the state, according to The Quay County Sun.

Currently, there are gaming compacts in place between New Mexico and its 14 federally recognized tribes which allow for only six racino licenses in the state. Five of these licenses have already been issued.

The NMRC was expected to announce the recipient of the highly sought-after sixth license in late 2018, but this announcement was delayed and then halted due to a court order.

Hildago Downs, one of the applicants and the complainant, argued that the feasibility study of the five bidders was flawed, thus suggesting that the entire selection process was compromised.

Change of Leadership

In the meantime, the incoming Democratic governor of New Mexico, Michelle Lujan Grisham, restructured the NMRC, whose members were appointed by her Republican predecessor.

The restructured commission refused to issue the final license, citing changes in the gambling industry. It argued that the state’s racing sector was fragile and that a new racino would harm the market.

I don’t believe the industry is healthy enough to support a sixth license,” said Commission Chairman Sam Bregman. “The industry has only gotten tougher.”

Coronado intends to construct a racino in the small city of Tucumcari. The company projects that the facility will employ at least 500 individuals and generate revenues of up to $55 million by 2025.

In 2021, the developer resubmitted its application and later that year sued the NMRC in an attempt to compel the regulator to make a decision on the submission.

Decision Rejected

In June 2022, Coronado filed a writ mandamus against the NMRC. This legal action forces an official body to fulfill its obligations as required by law.

District Judge Nancy Franchini granted the writ and ordered the regulator to make a decision on the Tucumcari application. The decision was negative.

In August of this year, Franchini dismissed the Coronado lawsuit. In an 18-page ruling, she emphasized that the New Mexico legislature granted discretionary power to the NMRC to grant or reject licenses in 1978.

Coronado submitted a notice of appeal on August 23, and the case will be heard by the appellate court. A date for the hearing has not yet been scheduled.

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