Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM)

Hobbs Businessman Framed, Then Sold, Track Bid.(Final)

Byline: Jeff Jones Journal Staff Writer

Art Dealer Takes Over Casino Pitch

Hobbs businessman Johnny Cope formed a limited liability company earlier this year and plunked down $80,000 to put together a bid to open and operate a proposed racetrack and casino in Lea County.

Six weeks after he started tying up land for the project, he sold out lock, stock and barrel to Santa Fe art dealer Jerry Peters.

Cope said his 1980s-era drug conviction, which could have posed problems in his bid to win a state license for the track, had nothing to do with his decision to bail out. The project, now estimated to cost $40 million to $50 million, got too expensive, he said.

"I misjudged the size of the project," Cope said. "I was pleased to get my money back. I was satisfied to step out of the project."

Cope, 57, said he originally intended to partner with Peters in the track and casino, adding that they began building the racetrack application together earlier this year. …

Log in to your account to read this article – and millions more.