Fulton donates to N.M. State

May 3, 2005 5:40 AM

When Stan Fulton retired from the Las Vegas gaming scene some five years ago, two resulting beneficiaries had no idea of the benefits that were to come.

The two were the thoroughbred racing industry and New Mexico State University.

Fulton, founder of Anchor Gaming, the company that developed the Wheel of Gold slot machine that International Game Technology (IGT) converted into the Wheel of Fortune, regarded as the most successful machine ever introduced to a casino’s gaming floor, sold off his interest in his company in exchange for cash and for ownership of Sunland Park, a racino near the Texas border.

Looking to enhance his interest in the thoroughbred sport, Fulton began investing in young horseflesh, spending millions at the auction sales looking for that colt that might be a Kentucky Derby contender. He succeeded in developing stakes winners but still finds the Derby winner elusive.

But he also immediately wanted to share his success with the local community that supported his business venture; thus, his donations to the state university.

In January, Fulton made another donation to the university, this time for two million dollars, bringing his total donations since 2000 to a total of six million dollars. He said he gave the money to the university "because it’s the right thing to do. It’s supporting the community. I believe in education."

Cynics have suggested that Fulton’s largess was an effort to influence public opinion against a plan by a local developer and an Indian tribe to build a casino near the track. Fulton replied to the suggestion by saying that he was opposed the off-reservation casino. But he denied that the proposal prompted the university gift.

"I was giving the university money long before there was any talk of a casino. The implication that this gift has something to do with that is improper."

The university said it had not identified the January gift until now so that it determine the best use for the money. Plans call for applying the donation to the graduate school for financial assistance and other support programs.