Is a positive path to a politician’s support through his friends and allies?
Despite appearances, that maneuver is being denied by a group that seeks a New Mexico racino license. But the fact remains that the group called Zia Partners, headed by prominent horse owner and racetrack operator R.D. Hubbard, has added Paul Blanchard as a part owner of the track project under consideration.
Blanchard is a well-known ally of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. He was co-chairman of Richardson’s transition team and Richardson named him to the state Board of Finance. Also, Blanchard is president of the Downs in Albuquerque that contributed more than $100,000 to Richardson’s election campaign.
At stake is a license to build a racetrack and video lottery machine venue in Hobbs. Hubbard, former chairman and CEO of Hollywood Park and its successor Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. (PNK), heads one of four groups that is seeking the Hobbs license. The others are: Las Vegas businessman Shawn Scott; Jerry Peters, a Santa Fe art dealer, and Ken Newton, former owner of The Downs at Santa Fe.
The Hobbs license has been on the table for more than 18 months but the state racing commission has said it will issue the license in November. Meanwhile, the four bids have been turned over to WhiteSand Consulting of Atlantic City, N.J., the company that was hired to evaluate the various bids.
According to information released by the Zia Partners, the makeup of the partnerships, if approved by the commission, will be Blanchard with 15%; Bruce Rimbo, longtime aide to Hubbard, with 15%; Dr. Edward Allred of Los Angeles, a Hubbard partner in a number of horse affiliations, 15%, and Hubbard himself with 55%.
Hubbard was heavily fined and forced to give up his leadership positions in Pinnacle Entertainment following charges by the Indiana gaming regulators that the company had imported girls from California to entertain high rollers at a golf party arranged by Pinnacle’s Belterra Riverboat Casino.
The matter was never seriously visited by the New Mexico Racing Commission, which licenses Hubbard as the operator of Ruidoso Downs.