The New Mexico Horsemen’s Association (NMHA) has filed a complaint with the New Mexico State Ethics Commission against the racing and gaming commissions. The NMHA accuses the two regulators of having violated the civil and constitutional rights of the 4,000 NMHA members by offering protection to a number of private racetracks. The racetracks are accused of having allegedly used millions in purse money for their private expenses.
The Ongoing War Between The NMHA and the Regulators
The advocacy group representing thousands of breeders, racehorse owners, and trainers is not carrying its first battle against New Mexico’s regulators. At the end of 2020, the group filed a lawsuit over the alleged amount of around $8 million in purse money that racetracks used to pay liability insurances for their exercise riders and jockeys. In the spring of 2021, the racing commission started implementing a series of changes that would enable racetracks to collect and distribute purse money, a job that used to belong to the NMHA.
The racing commission also outlawed voluntary payments to the NMHA made by racehorse owners from their purse money. The changes that the NMHA called a retaliation meant to strip the association from its funds received the support of the gambling commission. In the summer of 2021, the state’s Second District Court stayed the action of the racing commission, allowing racehorse owners to keep making their voluntary contributions to the NMHA. However, the advocacy group claims the two regulators have been violating the court’s order ever since, leading to a debt of over $300,000 in terms of contributions paid by members.
The NMHA Caught With Their Hand in The Cookie Jar?
The association’s new complaint was officially filed with the New Mexico State Ethics Commission on February 24 and it was announced four days later. The complaint is based on the alleged claims that the two regulators had violated a series of state laws, civil rights, and constitutional rights. While regulatory panel officials dismissed the accusations, the racing commission’s executive director Izzy Trejo said the regulator will “always follow state statute”, adding that this is precisely what the commission is doing right now. Trejo also stated that the NMHA has been “caught with their hand in the cookie jar” by calling purse money “member dues” in a wrongful manner.
Trejo added the complaint was still being reviewed by officials, so he could not comment on the allegations claiming the commissions were actively ignoring the court’s stay. In the past years, the Horsemen’s Association also objected to the poor conditions at the racetracks and as well as the limitation of race meets. In the nineties, New Mexico allowed racetrack slot machines to be used as per the terms of the agreement with Native American tribes. Twenty percent of the net revenues from these machines are used as purse money for bolstering horse racing. At the beginning of February, a bill that was supposed to legalize sports betting and table games at racetrack-casinos in the state faced opposition from tribal officials for the reason of violating gambling compacts.