08/16/2001 12:00AM

New Mexico racetrack proposed


A $25-to-$30 million construction project for a racetrack and casino has been proposed for Hobbs, New Mexico, in the southeast corner of the state. The site is approximately 80 miles from both Roswell, N.M., and Lubbock in the panhandle of Texas. The racing plant would become the state's fifth track in operation should it receive approval from the New Mexico Racing Commission.

Shawn Scott is the owner and president of the project, called Lea Downs Racetrack and Casin. Officials hope it can open as early as September 2002. Scott recently sold Delta Downs in Vinton, La., which he had bought for $10 million, to Boyd Gaming for more than $100 million.

Dave Wilson, vice president of racing for Lea Downs, said initial plans call for a 42-day Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse meet at the track, which will feature a casino. Wilson said that that 750,000 people live within a 100-mile radius of the proposed track. Legislation in New Mexico allows for slot machines at the tracks providing that the racing plants receive gaming licenses from the New Mexico Gaming Control Board.

The New Mexico Racing Commission is in the process of background checks on the Lea Downs application and has scheduled a public hearing for Sept. 25-26 in Hobbs to hear comment on the proposed track. Following the completion of background investigations, the application will be considered by the New Mexico Racing Commission.