Ruidoso Downs proposing track move to Las Cruces

AP News
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Posted: Nov 17, 2009 9:33 AM

Ruidoso Downs is asking a state regulator to allow the horse racing track to move to Las Cruces, the state's second-largest city.

Ruidoso Downs General Manager Ann McGovern said Monday the track and its casino have been losing money because of competition from two Indian casinos near the small resort community of Ruidoso in southern New Mexico.

"The population of Ruidoso really can't support three casinos," McGovern said in a telephone interview.

The track is the home of the All American Futurity, the richest event in quarter horse racing.

The state Racing Commission, which approves licenses for horse racing, was notified of the relocation proposal last Friday. A formal application to have racing start in Las Cruces in 2011 will be submitted to the commission this week, according to McGovern.

Racing Commission Executive Director Julian Luna said there's no deadline for the commission to decide whether to approve the move. However, he said commissioners probably will discuss how to handle the track's application for a license transfer during a meeting Thursday in Albuquerque.

McGovern said the track will again seek a tax break from the Legislature next year and wants to stay in Ruidoso if the measure is enacted. The track's tax proposal passed the House earlier this year but died in the Senate. A similar proposal failed in 2008.

"In case that we're not successful again, we needed to get this process started so we didn't lose another year before we could move forward with what I'll call plan B," McGovern said.

The Mescalero Apache Tribe has a casino at its Inn of the Mountain Gods resort just outside Ruidoso and another in a travel center on U.S. 70 within about five miles of the track.

"Our ownership, our management, we love Ruidoso. We do not want to move. But we also don't want to go out of business," McGovern said. "You have to be a viable business in order to stay operating, and currently we're not."

Las Cruces is about 115 miles southwest of Ruidoso, a community of about 9,000.

McGovern said the track has looked at several possible sites in Las Cruces but she declined to provide details. If the track moved to Las Cruces, it would be within about 50 miles of a race track and casino at Sunland Park.