A District Court judge has ordered the New Mexico Racing Commission to act within 90 days on an application by Coronado Partners for the state’s sixth and last racing license. Coronado wants to build a racetrack and casino in Tucumcari.
Coronado had sought a writ of mandamus in December to force the commission to act on a license that it clearly didn’t want to act on. Judge Nancy Franchini granted the request for the writ. She rejected arguments from the commission’s director Ismael “Izzy” Trejo that the industry was too frail and brittle to accommodate another license.
The judge wrote, “Mr. Trejo’s opinion that ‘it just isn’t the right time’ to consider an application for the sixth racetrack license does not affect the NMHRC’s duty to issue a decision on the Petitioner’s application.”
Coronado Partners is proposing a racino with 500 employees that could, it says, generate as much as $55 million in revenue by 2025.
Coronado Partners principal Warren Frost told Eastern New Mexico News, “The commission can choose to issue us a license or deny it, although we are ready for them to issue us a license so that we can build the racetrack, we have been through this too many times. We will hope for a license but should assume they will deny it.”
In that event, said Frost, his company is prepared to appeal that decision to the judge. “If she finds that the commission’s reasons for denying the license are invalid, she can order them to issue us a license.” His company applied for the license in 2019.
Trejo declined to make a statement about the ruling. During the hearing in May, Trejo said a sixth license was a low priority for the commission, which has lost three commissioners, one of whom recently passed away. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham then replaced the commission in April 2020.
The commission also had to deal with Covid, lawsuits, the legalization of sports betting and the enactment of the federal Horse Racing Integrity & Safety Act. In addition, said Trejo, the racetrack industry nationwide is in decline. He testified, “To issue a license like that is negligent to the industry.”