There are now two fully operating sportsbooks within casinos in New Mexico, despite the state not actually having any sports gambling legislation. The first sportsbook opened last October, while the second one has just recently opened up to sports bets.
In May last year, the Supreme Court overturned PASPA, or the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act 1992. This 26-year-old law banned sports betting outside of Nevada. Overturning it meant that states could make their own laws surrounding sports betting.
Several legal experts in New Mexico believed that the state would first have to legalize sports gambling before sportsbooks could begin operations, and they expected there would be a rush to legislate sports gambling shortly after the ban was lifted in May 2018. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much focus on that issue at all. And, there still isn’t.
There were no sports betting bills submitted this session. Despite that, a second casino in New Mexico, Buffalo Thunder, announced it was opening a sportsbook to take wagers on pro and collegiate sports. The Santa Ana Star Casino was the first, having launched in October. Other casinos will most likely follow very shortly.
According to Alfred Mathewson, a New Mexico Law professor, not much attention has been paid so far to sports betting by lawmakers. Of other casinos opening sportsbooks, Mathewson made the following statement:
“It would not surprise me at all if others did follow suit particularly if things continue to go slow and there’s no objection.”
The two operators are working under the assumption that sports gambling is legal because it is a “Class III” game, allowable under the tribe’s compact with the New Mexico Gaming Control Board.
If the state decides that sports betting is not, in fact, a Class III game, it could end up with a long and expensive court battle and would require changes to the compact with local tribes. This might not be the battle-to-the-death that the state wants. In 2018, the state took in over $71 million in revenue from casinos.
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham didn’t speak one way or the other about sports betting, but did mention that they will be taking an in-depth look at it. She believes that any activity having an impact on the economy should be examined in more detail to assess the pros and cons. As for sports betting, it will definitely become a point of contention in the near future once more revenue is generated from this gambling activity.
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