Clovis may be in running for racino license

Clovis may be in the running for New Mexico's sixth and only remaining racino gambling license, though it's likely the drama may drag out another month.

Paul Stout, a rancher and wind energy entrepreneur, confirmed Wednesday that he represents a client interested in the racino license and has looked at property near the city.

Additionally, City Manager Joe Thomas confirmed Wednesday that a national gaming concern had contacted his office within the last year to express an interest in locating a racino in or near Clovis.

The New Mexico Racing Commission meets today in Albuquerque. Chairman Rob Doughty III said the expired license that once belonged to a developer with plans for a Raton racino will be discussed.

It doesn't appear likely, however, the license will be opened to applications for at least another 30 days, according to Warren Frost, an attorney representing a renewed bid to locate the racino in Tucumcari.

Frost said Canadian developer Michael Moldenhauer has asked the new Mexico Supreme Court for permission to appeal a lower court's decision upholding the expiration of his license for La Mesa Racetrack in Raton. Frost said that means the racing commission will likely put the matter on hold while the Supreme Court decides if it will hear Moldenhauer's appeal.

"We're very confident that the Supreme Court will deny (Moldenhauer's) request," said Frost. But the court likely won't make decision for at least 30 days, he said.

Tucumcari is one of four locations where gaming concerns have publicly declared an interest in the racino license. The others include Hobbs, Raton and Lordsburg.

Stout declined to identify his client by name but said it was an out-of-state entity.

"I really can't discuss any details," Stout said. "We're still looking at this, yes."

Thomas also declined to specify the name of the group that made contact with the city.

The prospect of a racino locating in Clovis isn't a new one.

In 2010, the city presented a package to move the Ruidoso Downs Race Track and Casino to Clovis.

The proposal was sought by Ruidoso Downs General Manager Shaun Hubbard, who had threatened to move his operation if Ruidoso didn't grant tax breaks to the gambling operation.

Hubbard and the city eventually reached an agreement and the Clovis proposal fell flat.

The drama over the state's last racino license has been five years in the making and includes a two-year legal fight between Moldenhauer and the racing commission.

The commission originally granted Moldenhauer's group the license for Raton over a strong push in 2008 by Tucumcari to locate the racino in Quay County. But two years later, the commission declared Moldenhauer's license expired, claiming he failed to complete La Mesa by a deadline of May 2010.

Moldenhauer sued to have the license reinstated and has lost all appeals so far.

Others interested in the license include Penn National Gambling, which owns Zia Park in Hobbs.

Spokesperson Karen Bailey told the Albuquerque Journal a week ago that Penn National was interested. Bailey declined to say what the national gambling concern planned to do with a second racino license, the newspaper reported.

Bailey didn't immediately return calls and emails for comment.

A group headed by former Raton City Manager Pete Kampfer has also said they plan to seek the racino license. The Lordsburg group, which lost a bid for the license along with Tucumcari in 2008, has indicated it plans to re-apply if the racing commission offers the license.

Frost said Tucumcari is the only one of the bunch that has actually applied for the license.

"We have an application pending. We did that when they (the racing commission) opened it up two years ago," Frost said. "We're ready to go. We don't care who the competition is. … We think we have the best proposal out there."

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