New Mexico Racino License Squabble Goes to Appeals Court

Posted on: September 6, 2023, 03:08h. 

Last updated on: September 6, 2023, 06:55h.

A casino development company that has spent years battling for a license to build a racino in Tucumcari, N.M. is not done just yet.

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 appealed an Albuquerque district court’s August ruling that the New Mexico Racing Commission (NMRC) is not obligated to award a sixth racino license in the state, The Quay County Sun reports.

Under existing gaming compacts between New Mexico and its 14 federally recognized tribes, the state allows only six racino licenses. Five have already been issued.

The NMRC was expected to announce the winner of the coveted sixth license in late 2018. But the announcement was postponed and then halted by a court injunction.

The complainant, also one of the applicants, Hildago Downs, claimed a feasibility study into the five bidders was unsound, which it claimed meant the whole selection process was flawed.

Change of Guard

In the meantime, New Mexico’s incoming Democratic governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, reorganized the NMRC, whose members had been appointed by her Republican predecessor.

The reorganized commission refused to issue the final license, claiming the gambling landscape had changed. It argued that the state racing industry was fragile and a new racino would cannibalize the market.

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

Coronado wants to build a racino in the small city of Tucumcari. The company said the facility would employ at least 500 people and generate revenues of up to $55 million by 2025.

The developer resubmitted its application in 2021 and sued the NMRC later that year to force the regulator into deciding on the submission.

It’s a ‘No’

In June 2022, Coronado filed a writ mandamus against the NMRC. This court order compels an official body to perform the duties it is obligated to do under law.

District Judge Nancy Franchini granted the writ and ordered the regulator to decide on the Tucumcari application. It said no.

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

Coronado filed a notice of appeal on August 23, which will be heard by the appellate court. No date for the hearing has been scheduled.