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Horsemen and economy are suffering, so reopen racinos

Thus far, more than 800 New Mexicans have lost their lives to COVID-19 in 2020. These individuals were from all walks of life, and none deserved to be a casualty of this pandemic. The emotional and financial pain felt across all parts of the state continues to this day.

New Mexico prevented itself from being an epicenter of the pandemic through the implementation of proactive measures ordered by our governor and compliance with those measures by responsible citizens. As responsible citizens, New Mexicans must now ensure New Mexico does do not become the epicenter of a state economic disaster.

More than 10,000 people work in the New Mexico horse racing industry: farmers, truck drivers, veterinarians, trainers, blacksmiths and jockeys, to name a few. All are dedicated to their craft, and all are part of a nationwide industry rich in history, with its beginnings in the United States, right here in what is now present-day New Mexico, on the banks of the Rio Grande.

As a sport, horse racing in New Mexico is largely supported by tourism dollars from local casinos. The funds realized from these dollars are allocated directly to the winnings in horse race purses. These winnings support the industry and are utilized to fund every aspect of the industry including, but certainly not limited to: horses, farms, feed, equipment and wages for the 10,000-plus individuals previously mentioned. In other words, the funds realized from the horse racing industry in New Mexico run wide and deep in support of New Mexico’s economic development.

Therefore, if allowed to open and fully operate, horse racing and its associated gaming, long seen as the third largest economic engine in the state of New Mexico – only behind oil, gas and tourism – will provide a significant contribution to the state’s economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After closing the casinos in March, the purse accounts are now empty at Sunland Park, SunRay Park and Ruidoso Downs. Albuquerque Downs will run out of money in days. Accounts once designed to promote the economic prosperity for horsemen and horse owners are now completely empty for the first time since 1999.

COVID-19 has taken our loved ones, family, friends and so much more. It has caused us to close our businesses, shelter in place, homeschool our children and evaluate every aspect of our lives.

As the year draws near to its close and the last remaining purse dollars are exhausted, New Mexico’s five commercial casinos remain closed, while every other casino in the United States has been granted the right to open.

If we want horse racing, if we want direct or indirect racing industry jobs, if we want the tax revenue horse racing and their casinos generate for New Mexico, I urge the governor to allow the casinos to open – even in a limited fashion. What will it take to prevent us from once again being last?

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