The Quay County Sun newspaper last week published a well-researched story that speculates why the Route 66 town of Tucumcari, New Mexico, hasn’t been awarded a license from the state to build a horse-racing track and casino, despite a license being available for more than a year.
The proposed Coronado Park racino in Tucumcari calls for 600 slot machines and a one-mile dirt racetrack just off Route 66. It would host 55 days of horse racing each year and create an estimated 1,200 jobs. The New Mexico Racing Commission holds six licenses, and one is available after a proposed “racino” in Raton went bust a few years ago.
State officials contacted by the newspaper wouldn’t comment on why Tucumcari is denied the open license. However, the Sun said the state may be holding back for a number of reasons:
- Doubt exists whether there is enough horse stock to keep six racetracks running.
- Even more doubt exists whether the horse-racing industry is healthy enough for another facility. Race attendance in the United States declined 30 percent from 2006 to 2011 and shows no signs of improvement.
- Casino officials are concerned the gaming industry has reached a saturation in the United States, especially with the rapid rise of Native American-owned casinos. And more tribal casinos are coming.
- Questions remain whether the state can manage enough oversight over illegal doping of horses and ensuring jockey safety. A New York Times report in 2012 showed that New Mexico had the worst oversight in the country.
The Sun reports Tucumcari remains an attractive site for a new racino, with its proximity to Interstate 40 and a neighboring state — Texas — that has almost no casinos. And the promise of hundreds of jobs and thousands of new visitors undoubtedly would boost Tucumcari’s economy and perhaps halt or reverse the town’s 50-year slide.
But the proposed racino contains pitfalls, too. No one should look at a Tucumcari racino with rose-colored glasses.