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Court dismisses racino’s appeal to reinstate license

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The New Mexico Court of Appeals has dismissed an appeal by La Mesa Racetrack and Casino that sought to reinstate its 2010 racing license and to order the New Mexico Racing Commission to approve live horse racing dates at the long-stalled and never-completed Raton racino.

In denying the appeal, Appeals Judge Michael Bustamante said the Racing Commission, despite its announced intent to take disciplinary action against La Mesa for not meeting its obligation to host live races by Memorial Day weekend 2010, never issued a “final written order.”

“We determine that it (the commission) did not (issue a final written order) and that there was no appealable final order in this case,” Bustamante wrote.

“In addition, even assuming the Court determined that accepting jurisdiction was appropriate, we decline to review La Mesa Racetrack’s arguments because those issues are moot.”

The ruling is the latest skirmish in a convoluted legal case that started when Canadian developer Michael Moldenhauer was unable to complete a temporary casino, build the racetrack or host live races by the May 2010 deadline.

He had received a racing license for the planned $50 million racino in January 2009.

Moldenhauer protested both the loss of his state racing license, which is required to conduct horse racing and wagering, and his gaming license, which is needed to operate slot machines. A portion of racino slot revenues goes to live horse racing purses.

The New Mexico Gaming Control Board nullified Moldenhauer’s gaming license in 2010 after he failed to open the casino. Moldenhauer appealed, but the Court of Appeals upheld the Gaming Control Board’s decision.

In his ruling on the racing license, Bustamante wrote, “Even if we granted La Mesa’s requested relief, there is no real remedy available at this time. A condition of La Mesa’s racing license was an active gaming license, but La Mesa’s gaming license has been revoked. … Our opinion in the gaming license case is final and precludes any arguments to that aspect of La Mesa’s obligations under the racing license.

“Thus, even if we somehow reinstated the racing license as La Mesa requests, La Mesa would still be unable to fulfill that condition.

“In addition, ordering the Commission to conduct hearings or otherwise consider La Mesa’s request for amended 2010 race dates now — nearly three years after the fact — is fruitless.”

The latest court ruling also dissolves an injunction that prevented the Racing Commission from accepting or acting on applications for the state’s sixth — and for the foreseeable future, final — racino license.

When the state renegotiated its gaming compacts with casino-operating tribes in 2007, it extended the compacts until 2037 and agreed to limit gambling competition by capping the number of racinos in the state to six.

Before the injunction, Coronado Partners — a group of investors headed by Albuquerque businessman Don Chalmers — filed an application for the sixth license.

Tania Maestas, an assistant state attorney general who represents the Racing Commission, said at the time that Coronado Partners’ application would remain on file with the commission.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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