New Mexico Horsemen File Suit Against Commission Over ‘Retaliatory’ Defunding Attempt

The New Mexico Horsemen’s Association (NMHA) filed an immediate Appeal and Motion to Stay with the Second Judicial District Court in Bernalillo County on May 23 over action taken by the New Mexico Racing Commission (NMRC) at its meeting on May 20, 2021.

On that date, the NMRC unanimously passed a motion that the NMHA “is to immediately discontinue the practice of requiring its membership to pay the 1% purse diversion, the $5.00 Starter Fee and the $2.00 PAC [Political Action Committee] fee stemming from their participation in horseracing in New Mexico. The motion also is to instruct all five (5) racetracks to not provide those improper funds to the New Mexico Horsemen’s Association.”

According to a letter written by NMRC in-house counsel Richard Bustamante, “stopping that improper diversion of purse money will translate to the addition of approximately $700,000.00 a year to purse money.”

The Commission’s order cannot stand for several reasons, the court filing by the Horsemen alleges. They contend horsemen were not afforded Due Process, the commission has no authority or jurisdiction over donation by horsemen owners to the horsemen, and the order was made in retaliation.

According to the Appeal and Motion to Stay filed by the NMHA: “The true motive behind the order/directive is to deprive the Horsemen of all or a large portion of funding because the Horsemen objected to racetracks using ‘purse monies’ for operational expenses [insurance], Horsemen objected to the Commission canceling race meets and/or shortening race meets, Horsemen refused to pay from purse money the operational expenses of the racetracks, and Horsemen were demanding racetracks keep the tracks and backsides in good, clean and safe condition.”

In addition, the NMHA plans to amend its current civil lawsuit against the NMRC to include additional causes of action for both discrimination against the NMHA and for ethics violation of public officials based on alleged conflict of interests of commissioners.

On Dec. 2, 2020, the NMHA filed a lawsuit against the Commission seeking the return of more than $8 million it alleges the Commission has been collecting improperly from horsemen since 2004 to pay liability insurance for jockeys.

That complaint, a petition for declaratory judgement and relief, also alleges that the commission has improperly ordered horsemen to pay a “gate fee or starter’s fee” every time a horse races.

“The costs of operating the ‘gate’ are and always have been an expense of the association putting on the race, that is a cost or expense of the racino and not the owner or trainer of the horse entering the gate for a scheduled race,” the complaint states, adding that “there is no provision in New Mexico law that allows the Racing Commission to access a fee to horsemen for the starter’s gate.”

Finally, the Dec. 2 complaint alleges that the New Mexico Racing Commission improperly demands the Horsemen’s Association pay a fee for a license. “The Horsemen’s Association does not race horses, or train horses and is a benevolent, non-profit organization and no license is required,” the complaint alleges.

The commission subsequently filed a Motion to Dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and failure to state a claim, to which the horsemen responded on May 3, 2021.

A portion of that response reads: “In a stunning admission, the New Mexico Racing Commission admits they have taken the Horsemen’s purse money, and now suggest the Horsemen have no remedy, not even in the Courts of New Mexico. The Commission suggests the Horsemen can come to them and seek relief, which is akin to asking the fox to return the chicken.”

The response concludes: “Horse racing in New Mexico was saved when each racetrack was allowed to institute casino gaming. The plan, as set forth by statute, was that certain proceeds from casino gaming would go to purses for horse racing. Casino gaming was meant to save horse racing, not the other way around. The New Mexico legislature clearly wrote the money was to be used for purses. Purses are not defined as operating costs of the racetrack/casinos. The rule-regulation of the Commission is not in compliance with the statutes. There is no administrative remedy for the Horsemen and they have attempted, to no avail, to get the Commission to stop allowing racetracks/casinos to use part of the purse money for operating costs. The Horsemen are correct about what the money can be used for, that is, for purses. The Horsemen request the law be complied with and the Court determine not only that it has the jurisdiction but the Horsemen have no remedy but through the Courts.”

The post New Mexico Horsemen File Suit Against Commission Over ‘Retaliatory’ Defunding Attempt appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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