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State puts off decision on sixth racino

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The New Mexico Racing Commission announced Thursday it will not make a decision on the state’s sixth and final racetrack-casino until it responds to pending litigation from one of the license applicants.Five organizations submitted bids for the last racino license permitted under tribal compacts. Three of the bids proposed racinos in Clovis, while the two others proposed facilities in Tucumcari and Lordsburg.

Last week, Hidalgo Downs LLC, the group that proposed a Lordsburg-based facility, filed a petition for a temporary injunction calling the feasibility study used by the commission “flawed.” As of midday Thursday, no judicial action had been taken on the petition.

At the special meeting held near Albuquerque Downs Racetrack & Casino, the commission had been expected to announce either that it had chosen a bid or that it would not issue a racino license this year. But the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office urged officials to table the decision-making process in light of the litigation.

The motion passed unanimously.

Tania Maestas, chief deputy attorney general for civil affairs and operations, told reporters the state would respond to the litigation next week and that the commission’s intent is to award the license. A spokesman for the attorney general said in a statement after the meeting that the office “will continue to work with the racing commission as they resolve the threat of pending litigation to ensure integrity in their awarding of the state’s sixth racing license.”

Paul Martinez, a member of the Hidalgo Downs group that filed the petition, told the Journal he and his colleagues are “pleased that (the commission) made the prudent decision to wait.”

Among the allegations made by Hidalgo Downs in its court filing: that the feasibility study is “a marketing plan in support of Clovis, N.M. locations”; that, in particular, it promoted a bid submitted by Las Vegas, N.V.-based Full House Resorts; and that the study “does not appear to meet the minimum requirements for a comprehensive, standard and objective feasibility study.”

Covergence Strategy Group, the New Orleans, La.-based consulting firm that authored the report, declined comment. In a statement, Full House Resorts, which has submitted a bid for a Clovis racino, said though it is disappointed by the delay, it “applauds the Racing Commission for taking the prudent path to resolve this matter.” L&M Entertainment, which also submitted a Clovis bid, said it was “puzzled” and is “prepared to begin immediately if . . . selected and approved.”

Other bidders were not immediately available for comment.

About 200 people attended the meeting, and many expressed audible frustration when the commission announced its decision.

“I drove all the way from Clovis for this!” one person said.