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Downs at Albuquerque won big in 2013

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Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal

A 78 percent leap in slots gambling at the Downs at Albuquerque’s new $25 million casino offset what could have been a notable decrease in racino gambling statewide – and money paid to the state – based on 2013 “net win” figures reported to the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department.

The Downs, which won a controversial 25-year lease at the state-owned Expo New Mexico fairgrounds in 2011 that allowed it to build the new casino, jumped from a net win of $14.2 million in 2012 to $24.3 million last year. The new casino, situated at the northwest corner of Central and Louisiana, opened July 11.

Attempts to reach Downs officials for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful.

“Net win” – the amount wagered on slot machines minus prize payouts and approved regulatory fees – is a key indicator of overall gambling activity.

Only one other racino, Ruidoso Downs, saw an increase in slots activity last year. Its net win increased from $8.3 million in 2012 to $8.6 million last year – a 4 percent jump.

Because of the Downs’ jump, gambling activity at the state’s five racinos slipped less than a half-percent last year compared with the previous year

Unlike tribal casinos, racinos are limited by state law to operating only slot machines. Racinos, which are allowed only at horse race tracks that have some live racing, pay 26 percent of their net win to the state.

Collectively, the state’s five racinos – The Downs at Albuquerque/Casino at the Downs; Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino; Ruidoso Downs/Billy the Kid Casino; SunRay Park and Casino east of Farmington; and Zia Park/Black Gold Casino in Hobbs – reported $241.3 million in net win for calendar year 2013 – a .045 percent decrease from the previous year.

The racinos paid the state $61.9 million last year, down from $62 million in 2012.

Without the Downs at Albuquerque’s jump in net win, total racino net win would have been down 4.3 percent from the previous year – assuming the Downs’ slot activity remained as it had in 2012.

Not surprisingly, SunRay Park and Casino, hit hard by the January 2012 opening of the 86,000-square-foot Northern Edge Navajo Casino just 9 miles to its west, had the largest decrease in net win among racinos last year – falling 12.4 percent to just more than $23 million.

The state’s racino heavyweights both showed a decline.

Zia Park/Black Gold Casino’s 2013 net win was $94.4 million, a 1.7 percent decrease from the previous year. Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino reported net win of $90.9 million – down 5.9 percent from 2012.

Last year was the second year in a row that total racino net win in New Mexico has declined. Net win fell 3 percent from 2011 to 2012. In the two years prior to 2011, total racino net win had increased an average of 1 percent annually. From 2008 to 2009, the height of the recession, racino revenue fell 9 percent.

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