Created: May 24, 2020 10:25 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It’s back to the races at Ruidoso Downs Race Track and Casino. Their season, which had been on hold since mid-May, kicked off Friday and will run through Labor Day.
"It has been a very busy week but a very enjoyable one. We were not sure even 30 days ago if we were going to be here today,” said Jeff True, president and general manager of Ruidoso Downs Race Track and Casino.
The return, however, is still missing one major component: crowds. Since the governor’s ban on mass gatherings in still in place, fans are not allowed to pack the grandstands and watch the races in person.
"The aesthetics are very weird, I'll go ahead and tell you. Running races like that without anybody in the stands is antithetic to anything we do. The live fans at our racetrack and Ruidoso in particular represent about 50 percent of all of our wagering,” True said.
For now, fans will have to watch the races online.
True said state law prohibits New Mexico residents from placing in-state horse racing bets online, but people can still place their bets in-person at the Ruidoso downs.
"It's just like going to McDonald’s or to Taco Bell. You drive up. There's a teller behind a piece of Plexiglass on the curb. You're under a porte cochère, you drive up, never get out of your car, make the wagers, she'll hand the paper ticket, off you go. You can go home and you can watch it on your phone or on your laptop,” he said.
True said the horse racing industry is New Mexico’s third largest economic driver behind oil and gas, and tourism. He said it generated about $500 million a year for the state’s economy.
That’s why it’s return is even more important—not just for the state—but for Ruidoso and summer tourism.
"So all those Texans that get out of that heat in west Texas, the folks in southern New Mexico, they come up here to the cools pines. We're at 7000 feet elevation. We have a little horse racing and a lot of fun,” True added.
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