On October 16, 2018, a man placed a $30 wager that Houston Astros would beat Boston Red Sox. He lost, but the ticket still went down in history as the first sports betting wager to take place within the borders of New Mexico.
Just a few months after the US Supreme Court declared there are no legal grounds to make sports betting illegal, the Santa Ana Star Casino & Hotel in New Mexico launched its sportsbook. However, this doesn’t mean that the state has legalized sports betting. Actually, there are still no laws in New Mexico that make sports betting legal and regulated. So, what’s the catch with the Santa Ana Star sportsbook?
According to the interpretation of current laws, only tribal casinos are allowed to run sports betting operations. And Santa Ana Star Casino & Hotel is owned by the Pueblo of Santa Ana community. As of 2019, this is the only casino in the state that accepts wagers on sports. It’s unlikely that many other casinos are going to follow Santa Ana Star’s example anytime soon.
Gambling History of New Mexico
Gambling has always played a big role in the lives of New Mexico residents. Still, it wasn’t until after WWII that some forms of gambling were made officially legal. It all started with horse racing, which has a long tradition in this state. Betting on horse racing became legal in 1947 and the first race track that started accepting horse racing bets was Ruidoso Downs Race Track, which at the time was known as the Hollywood Park.
A year later, the state made charity gambling legal as well. It started with legalizing bingo for senior citizens, under the condition that the profits would go to charity. For a couple of decades, no new gambling laws were passed. Even after the 1988 Federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act came into power, the Governor of New Mexico refused to accept it. Still, in the mid-1990s, New Mexico did get on with it, allowing a number of Native American communities to launch their casinos.
It took more than 15 years before New Mexico passed laws that allowed non-tribal casinos to open and the first such casino to launch was the Albuquerque Downs Casino, which opened its doors to the public in 2011. Then in fall 2018, the Santa Ana Star Casino & Hotel launched its sportsbook operation, thus becoming the first venue in New Mexico to offer sports betting.
Judging by the progressive stance the New Mexico officials have been showing toward gambling, it’s possible that other casinos are going to follow the example of Santa Ana Star Casino & Hotel. However, judging by the past experiences, these sorts of things go slowly in New Mexico, which is why we probably won’t see any new NM sportsbooks opening their doors anytime soon.
The Only Sportsbook in New Mexico
When the Santa Ana Star Casino & Hotel accepted its first sports bet, Pueblo of Isleta became only the third Native American tribe to launch a sportsbook in the United States. The two tribes that did it earlier were the Fort Mojave Tribe of Laughlin, Nevada, and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians who own a sportsbook at the Pearl River Resort.
Santa Ana Star Casino and Hotel has launched the sportsbook in partnership with USBookmaking, a company in charge of running the sports betting operations within the venue. Currently, there are four betting stations with working hours from noon to 8 p.m. (Monday through Friday) and from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (weekends). During off-hours, the players have two self-service kiosks at their disposal.
The players can place bets on a variety of different events, excluding those that involve teams from New Mexico. All collegiate teams playing under the banners of New Mexico State University and the University of New Mexico are not included in the betting offer.
Not being able to bet on local teams is the only condition the sportsbook has. Therefore, the customers can bet on all sorts of sports, including:
- American Football (NFL, NCAAF)
- Basketball (NBA, NCAAB, WNBA)
- Baseball (MLB)
- Ice hockey (HNL)
- Auto racing (NASCAR, Formula One)
- Fantasy sports (DraftKings and FanDuel)
- And more!
Apart from sports betting, the Santa Ana Star Casino and Hotel has many other gambling options for its guests. The 109,000 square-foot venue just outside Albuquerque is one of the largest casinos in this part of the United States, with more than 1,600 slot machines and tables where all kinds of casino games are played.
Online Sports Betting Laws in New Mexico
In spring 2018, the US Supreme Court declared there are no legal grounds for sports betting to be illegal. Still, they did leave the final decision to the individual states. Just a few months later, several states have passed laws that made all forms of sports betting legal and regulated, online betting included. However, New Mexico isn’t one of those states, at least, not yet.
Right now, sports betting in New Mexico is only legal if conducted in land-based casinos run by Native Tribes. So far, the only casino that was given a license by the state gambling authority was Santa Ana Star Casino & Hotel. But, even on the casino grounds, you’re not allowed to bet online at offshore sportsbooks. In fact, the only sportsbook you can wager your money at is the one running its operation inside the casino.
Although it’s impossible to predict the future, judging by the stance the state officials had toward gambling in the past, it seems likely that online sports betting is going to become legal in New Mexico. However, the experience has also thought us that gambling laws take years or even decades to come into effect in this state. This is why even the most optimistic experts don’t think we’ll see any major changes in New Mexico gambling laws by the end of the decade. Until the change comes, the players can always place sports bets at the Santa Ana Star Casino and Hotel.