Vision 2020 Holds Townhall to Discuss Racino - Clovis Racino Advocates Make Case
Clovis racino advocates (Vision 2020) make caseThe Eastern New Mexico News - By David Grieder
CLOVIS - Fresh with news of the several stated contenders for the last such remaining license in New Mexico, advocates for a Clovis racino gathered Tuesday evening at the Chamber of Commerce to make their case, answer questions and request support.
The New Mexico Racing Commission on Monday released the eight letters of intent it had received from entities with designs to establish a sixth casino and horse racetrack in the state, three of which said they were focused on Clovis for the project. Two others aimed toward Raton, and one each for Tucumcari, Lordsburg and Las Vegas, NM.
Those in favor of the Clovis location said it would bring sorely needed construction and tax dollars and hundreds of full-time and seasonal jobs while bolstering the city as a destination for those out of town and, importantly, out of state. Those opposed have expressed concerns a local gambling institution would bring crime, bankruptcy and misery within just years, claims which advocates addressed at the meeting and declared well-exaggerated.
Representatives of "Vision 2020" told some five dozen assembled community members that it didn't matter to them which of the three interested entities it was, so long as one of them won out for Clovis. Of those three- Full House Resorts, Inc. of Las Vegas, Nevada, Clovis Racetrack and Casino, LLC (headed by Shaun Hubbard, once connected with Ruidoso Downs) and Albuquerque's L&M Entertainment, LLC - all stated they were looking at locations on Clovis' east side for the development.
Gayla Brumfield and Tom Martin (formerly a mayor and city commissioner, respectively, for Clovis) led the presentation and Q&A, each trumpeting a racino as one of the most significant economic opportunities for the area in a long time. Racetrack construction alone was valued at no less than $80 million, to be supplied by the winning firm, with property taxes going toward Curry County. Construction would also bring an estimated 750 jobs, they said, as well as 400 jobs during the March-May racing season at the completed track and 300 jobs in its off-season.
Of the money the racino would take in, more than a quarter would go into the state's general fund, which works its way back locally through money for roads, education and water projects, Brumfield said. That's not to mention the additional income for hotels and restaurants, said Martin, who cited a study occasioned by Laguna Development Corp. that estimated more than three-quarters of the anticipated 750,000 annual casino visits would be from Texas.
"I don't know about you, but I'm sick and tired of going to Texas and spending money," Martin said.
Addressing a list of questions posted online by a group opposing the effort (called Racino, with emphasis on the last syllable), Martin came to one that said casinos divert money from struggling local businesses.
"'Who will be impacted the most by this wealth extraction?,'" he read.
"Texas," he answered, to an eruption of laughter and applause from the crowd.
The group addressed other concerns, including security and crime issues emerging from a casino as well as "financial and family troubles" for those who sink their fortunes into slots. As to the former, Martin said developers include in-house security with their plans and that he spoke with police chiefs in cities currently with racinos who told him community crime from the establishments was a non-issue.
"Anything has its negatives, there is potential for that," Brumfield said of the possibility for social issues. She mentioned how Ruidoso Downs has a chaplain on-site and a "cowboy church" for worship, and Martin cited figures from NMRC estimating that "problem gamblers" account for less than 1 percent of the population, figures which he said were grossly inflated online.
Both said the Vision 2020 group was not accepting donations or other funds from the entities intent on a Clovis racino.
At the close of the meeting, organizers exhorted the public to come in full force for meetings that would likely be held in Clovis as the process continued. Applications are due Aug. 17, and the state said it hoped to make a selection before the end of Gov. Susana Martinez's term. The competition currently looks stiff, so it would take a community effort, Brumfield said.
"They want this bad, so we have to want it worse," she said. "I think it's going to be one of the greatest things that we've ever done."