11/20/2003 1:00AM

Hubbard group gets license


The New Mexico Racing Commission awarded a horse racing and slot-machine license on Wednesday to a group headed by R.D. Hubbard, former chairman of Hollywood Park.

The group plans to build a $43 million racetrack and casino in Hobbs, N.M., in the southeastern corner of the state. To be called Zia Park, the casino is scheduled to open in November 2004, while the racetrack would follow one year later.

Zia Park will become the fifth racetrack-casino in the state, joining Ruidoso Downs, Sunland Park, Sun Ray Park, and the Downs at Albuquerque. Hubbard also owns Ruidoso.

The license was awarded conditionally, meaning that Hubbard and his partners will also have to be licensed by the state's Gaming Control Board. The group will also have to meet the requirements it laid out for the track during its presentations to commissioners.

In 2001, Hubbard's gambling license was revoked in Indiana after his company, Pinnacle Gaming, was found to have provided prostitutes to high rollers during a golf junket at one of the company's casinos.

Under the group's plans, Zia Park will install 600 slot machines, the maximum allowed by law. Zia also plans to run a 53-day horse racing meet.

New Mexico law requires racetracks to run at least 17 live racing days to operate slot machines. The tracks also must race four days a week when open and card at least nine races a day, according to Julian Luna, the executive director of the state racing commission.