‘No’ to Peters, ‘Wait’ to Chalmers, ‘Wait and See’ with the Fair

Santafe.com - September 4, 2011

"This is just the latest flurry of activity involving current and future gaming operations in New Mexico..."

The feds said "no casino" to Gerald Peters, the courts have said "wait" to a new racino and no one is saying what may happen at Expo New Mexico: This is just the latest flurry of activity involving current and future gaming operations in New Mexico.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs told Jemez Pueblo and partner Gerald Peters of Santa Fe that their application to build an off-reservation casino between Las Cruces and El Paso has been rejected. The Albuquerque Journal reported that the feds “had serious concerns about the tribe’s ability to effectively exercise tribal jurisdiction over land nearly 300 mile from its reservation.”

Jemez Pueblo had indicated that it had historical ties to the southern New Mexico area. This is the second time the application has been rejected and while there is an appeal process, this latest decision could mean the end of the effort. Jemez Pueblo, located southwest of Santa Fe, is not on a main traffic arterial, key to a casino’s success.

The actual site of the proposed casino was in Anthony, NM, located on Interstate 10 on the New Mexico-Texas border. It would have been only minutes from the huge El Paso-Juarez metroplex and the fast growing Las Cruces area. Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino, located minutes south of Anthony, Ruidoso Downs Race Track and Casino and the Inn of the Mountain Gods are breathing a sigh of relief at this recent news, but it was bad news for the border area which was hoping to capitalize on the jobs and economic activity the facility would create.

Elsewhere, 8th Judicial District Judge John Paternoster issued an injunction preventing the New Mexico Racing Commission from issuing a new racing license for the state’s sixth racino.

The action was prompted by the racing interests in Raton who had been awarded the state’s final racino license, only to see it revoked when they did not meet operating deadlines. A group headed by Don Chalmers, who owns car dealerships in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, filed an application to have the license awarded in Tucumcari.

The Raton racing interest also has the matter before the New Mexico Court of Appeals and the injunction was likely issued based on the outcome of that decision.

And, in other gaming news, the New Mexico State Fair has received, but has not made public, the proposals submitted by The Downs at Albuquerque and Laguna Development Corporation. With the current lease of the racetrack and casino on the fairgrounds due to expire next January, the New Mexico State Fair issued a request for proposals that could give the successful bidder an up to 25 year lease.

The Downs is the current leaseholder.  Laguna Development Corporation is the business operation for the Pueblo of Laguna which owns and operates two casinos west of Albuquerque, Route 66 and Dancing Eagle.

It will be interesting to see what each proposal offers and its impact on the fairgrounds located in the middle of Albuquerque.