The New Mexico Racing Commission( NMRC) will prevent bidders for the state’s sixth and final racino permission on tenterhooks, after an eleventh-hour legal challenge inspired it to postpone its decision.
Commissioners were expected to announce the winning bid on Thursday, but instead they announced they would be seeking legal advice after one of the bidders — Hidalgo Downs — filed a preliminary injunction to halt the process.
Hidalgo Downs is one of five working companies vying for the license. The litigation claims that a feasibility study on all five bidders conducted by analysts for the NMRC was flawed when it closed the Hidalgo Downs suggestion would generate less slots revenue than competing bidders and therefore less revenue for the state.
To add insult to injury, the results of the study likewise found that the proposal would cannibalize income from prevailing racinos within the state.
Hidalgo Downs — which aims to build a racetrack in Lordsburg, Hidalgo County, southwestern New Mexico — wants a judge to ordering that a brand-new learn be commissioned.
The company contends the study is a “marketing plan” in its pursuit of Full House Resorts of Las Vegas, adding that it “does not appear to meet the minimum requirements for a comprehensive, standard and objective feasibility study.”
Full House wants to build a racetrack in Clovis, Curry County, which will feature a futuristic “moving grandstand” which will follow the ponies around the way like a sideways-facing train.
NMRC said it was advised to put the decision on ice by the State Attorney General’s Office until the litigation is resolved. The move demonstrates just how carefully the regulator is treading and how susceptible it may be to litigation if gets the final judgment wrong.
As the Santa Fe New Mexican points out, a new racino are creating hundreds of millions of dollars in slot machine winnings for its owner, which could make losing bidders to sue if they feel “theyve been” hard done by.
No more than six trails are permitted to exist in the government under the provisions of the gaming compacts New Mexico has agreed with its numerous tribal operators.
Opponent from Existing Racinos
In 2008, the NMRC issued a sixth license to a group that planned to build a racetrack in Raton, Colfax County, but like so many casino projects at the beginning of the recession, it bit the dust.
As well as losing bidders, the NMRC may have to brave the rage of the state’s five existing operators, who claim a sixth racino would harm an already fighting industry.
In a November 13 letter to the commission, they advised service industries was “far from healthy and not in need of additional forces creating additional downward pressures.”
Meanwhile, on Thursday, bidders were also stepping carefully, anxious to eschew presenting their thwarting for fright of offending the commissioners.
Full House Resorts swallowed its letdown and told the Santa Fe New Mexican that it applauded the commission on human rights for taking a “prudent path.”
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