N.M. Commisioners ousted

Nov 26, 2002 6:03 AM

Any hope that R.D. Hubbard, former chairman and CEO of Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. (PNK), had of getting a license to build a "racino" in Hobbs, N.M., all but vanished last week when the governor dumped three members of the regulatory board.

Gov. Gary Johnson, acting on the concerns expressed by his chief of staff, David McCumber, ousted N.M. Racing Commission Chairman Greg Drake and an associate, Russ Moore, and received a letter of resignation from another commissioner, Michael Harbour. That left just two members on the commission.

McCumber told Johnson the commission should hold up any license for Hobbs because of questions regarding Hubbard and his problems in Indiana where he recently paid a huge fine and give up his gaming license following allegations that girls were imported from California to entertain high rollers at the company’s riverboat, the Belterra.

Recently, the commission denied an application filed by Nevada businessman Shawn Scott who also sought the Hobbs license. Commissioners failed to give Scott reasons for the denial but promised to file the reasoning within 60 days. That action is now clouded in light of the recent dismissals from the board.

Scott’s lawyer had made allegations that one or more of the commissioners was holding out for Hubbard and that’s why his application was denied. That’s when the commission moved in with their recommendation that Hubbard be denied in light of the Indiana regulatory action.

The next step to be taken by the commission, if it is reconstituted or whether the decision is left to the two remaining commissioners, will be to decide whether Hubbard’s license to operate Ruidoso Downs should be renewed.

Inheriting the problem will be governor-elect Bill Richardson who said during the campaign that he would let the locals decide whether the community should have a new racino in its environment.