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Racing commission tables regulations on N.M. 'racinos'

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The state Racing Commission has tabled proposed regulations that would set up the process for a racetrack and casino to follow in getting commission approval to move or to obtain a new racing license.

The rules would affect a plan by the Downs at Albuquerque to abandon cramped quarters at the state fairgrounds in Albuquerque in favor of a new $65 million ''racino'' in Moriarty. They also would affect any group that hopes to receive the state's last license for a combination racetrack and casino.

The unanimous decision was the second time in as many months that the commission tabled the proposal.

Agreements between the state and Indian tribes that operate casinos in New Mexico require the commission to ''solicit and consider'' tribal views when a racetrack and casino seek to relocate or when a new one applies for a racing license.

Racing Commission Chairman Arnold Rael said agreement has been reached on 95 percent of the wording of the new regulation, and urged the New Mexico Indian Gaming Association, the Downs at Albuquerque and other interested parties to redraft it to satisfy all sides before the next commission meeting in September.

The tribes, represented by the association, want assurances that commissioners will give sufficient consideration to how moving a racetrack and casino will affect nearby tribal casinos and the programs that depend on revenue from those casinos.

However, racetrack and casino owners object that such a standard would kill any relocation plans and make it harder for a sixth track to obtain a racing license.

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The compacts between the state and tribes limit the state to six racetrack-casino operations through 2037. New Mexico currently has five.

Pojoaque Pueblo applied in 2005 to reopen the Downs at Santa Fe, which closed 10 years ago, and a group of investors sought to build a new track and casino in Raton, which had a track decades ago. Those applications are pending.

Duke Thornton, attorney for the Downs at Albuquerque, argued that taking the impact on tribal casino revenue into consideration goes beyond the scope of the Racing Commission's responsibilities.

However, Charles Dorame, chairman of the Indian Gaming Association, said the economic impact on tribal gambling operations ''is an essential impact that needs to be addressed'' by the regulation.

He submitted a list of suggested changes to the regulation, all of them focusing on the economic impact of a racetrack and casino on nearby Indian casinos.

The latest draft of the regulations states that the Racing Commission will ''consider and evaluate tribes' views prior to taking any final action.'' The proposal defines ''consider and evaluate'' as meaning ''to think about carefully and seriously.''

Commission member Ray Willis of Roswell questioned the need for a definition.

''I have a problem when you start defining what you mean,'' he said. ''You ought to just say what you mean to begin with.''