July 25, 2011 at 6:51 PM

Santa Fe Auto Dealer Seeks Racino License

"According to the Clovis News Journal and the Albuquerque Journal, a group of investors headed by Don Chalmers has applied to the New Mexico Racing Commission for a license to operate the sixth and final horse race track and casino in Tucumcari"

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According to the Clovis News Journal and the Albuquerque Journal, a group of investors headed by Don Chalmers has applied to the New Mexico Racing Commission for a license to operate the sixth and final horse race track and casino in Tucumcari.

Under the terms of the compact signed between the State of New Mexico and the gaming Indian tribes in New Mexico, the maximum number of race track casinos---or racinos---that can operate in New Mexico is six. Five currently operate in the state.

Chalmers, who owns car dealerships in Santa Fe, Rio Rancho and Albuquerque, is part of Coronado Partners LLC, which includes a horse racing management group and a casino management group. Coronado is proposing to build a $60 million racetrack and casino on 300 acres near Interstate 40 in Tucumcari.  The casino would reportedly have 600 slot machines and would hold 56 days of live racing beginning in 2013.

This is the second attempt by Chalmer’s group to get a racing license in the eastern New Mexico city of about 6,000 residents.  In 2008 four groups in four cities were vying to get the sixth and final license. The license was awarded to a group wanting to put the racino in Raton over Tucumcari, Lordsburg and the Downs at Santa Fe, owned by the Pueblo of Pojoaque. 

However, the investors for the Raton venture failed to open on the promised date and the New Mexico Racing Commission revoked the license, opening the door for another location. The Raton group has gone to court to challenge that decision, which the Albuquerque Journal reported would be heard in September.

Tucumcari, located just a few miles east of the Texas border, boasts it has 1,200 hotel rooms and has been a major traffic stop on the busy I-40, formerly Route 66, artery.  Tucumcari is less than a two-hour drive from Amarillo, Texas and that is what makes it an attractive site for gaming. That was the concept for the racino built in Hobbs, NM and it has worked. The Tucumcari location is also far enough away from the Downs at Albuquerque to not create competition.

One of the anti-gambling arguments is that many of New Mexico’s casinos do not attract dollars from out of state, but in the case of Tucumcari, it probably will.  And, it provides jobs---an estimated 300---and that is big for the small town with very limited economic development opportunities.

Unless the Raton group successfully argues in court and gets the license that they originally were awarded, it appears that Tucumcari will likely be the next gaming location in New Mexico.

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