New Mexico Sports Betting

new mexico sports betting

Sports betting in New Mexico is a bit of a grey area. Whilst New Mexico sports betting has not officially been legalized, a loophole in the compact between state authorities and the tribes allows for Native American casinos to open sportsbooks and offer in-person sports bets to people over the age of 21.

New Mexico sports betting dates back to the 1940s, when bets on horse racing were officially legalized, and this has remained popular in the state. More than 40 years later, regulatory authority was created by Congress, enabling tribes to negotiate and establish their gaming pacts.

The Navajo Nation had been lobbying for New Mexico sports betting legalization for decades when an act was passed in 2018 allowing tribal casinos to offer sports betting on-site. The subsequent sportsbook opening at the Santa Ana Star Casino saw New Mexico become the sixth state to sanction sports betting. Since then, another four tribal establishments have followed suit, so New Mexico sports betting hopefuls can legally place a bet at any of five licensed tribal casinos.

Legal Online New Mexico Sports Betting

Legalized sports betting is not permitted in New Mexico. Therefore, the state doesn’t have any regulated online sportsbooks or casinos. However, US gambling and federal laws don’t account for sportsbooks out of the country; therefore, New Mexico sports betting fans can still legally access offshore online sportsbook websites. Offshore sportsbooks, such as BetOnline, BetUS, and Bovada, are popular, reputable sites with which New Mexico sports betting followers can safely engage. No online sports betting bills have been brought forward in New Mexico.

How To Pick A New Mexico Sports Betting Site

Although the Land of Enchantment doesn’t yet allow for mobile sports betting apps, New Mexico sports betting fans can wager on sports safely and securely on their phone browsers. However, if you decide to do this, you should always make sure that you bet on a trusted site with a strong reputation. Then, once you’ve narrowed down a list of reputable sites, you should look over any promotions they offer and draw comparisons before choosing the best platform. 

History / Timeline Of Sports Betting in New Mexico

The New Mexico sportsbook movement dates back to just after the Second World War, when the state legalized wagering on horse racing. As a result of this new legislation, the first pari-mutuel bets took place in 1947 at Ruidoso Park, at the time known as Hollywood Park.

It wasn’t until the late 1980s that the path to New Mexico sports betting legalization was started. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), a federal regulating body governing tribal gaming throughout the United States, was established by Congress in 1988. This allowed Native American tribes to negotiate and create individual gaming pacts, such as sports betting, which would be out of the jurisdiction of New Mexico law. The act, which still regulates tribal gaming throughout the United States, devised Native American gaming into three categories: Class I, II, and III gaming.

The succeeding decade thus saw the state actively embarking on negotiating gaming compacts with the native tribes. In another boost to the New Mexico sports betting campaign, federal law authorized the local tribes to set up gaming casinos on their reservations under certain conditions.

In 1990, New Mexico Governor Bruce King devised the Gubernatorial Task Force to negotiate gaming compacts with two tribes – the Mescalero Apache and the Pueblo of Sandia. The task force presented two negotiated Class III Gaming Compacts to Governor King, but he refused to sign them. King’s refusal ultimately cost him his reelection in 1994, when he was defeated by Gary Johnson, the latter of whom was outspoken about his support for signing tribal compacts if elected. Nevertheless, Johnson held onto his word, and that same year, the state’s new government officials began renegotiating the compacts with the tribes.

In 1995, 13 identical tribal compacts were signed and made law, and new casinos were established in New Mexico. That same year also saw the New Mexico sports betting movement grow when the state permitted slot machines to set up horse racing tracks to compete with the new casinos. In addition, the Land of Enchantment also legalized its state lottery. However, the movement was dealt a blow later that year when the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that Governor Johnson lacked the authorization to sign the tribe compacts on the state’s behalf. A similar outcome came in 1997 when the US Court of Appeals ruled that the governor had no authority to approve the compacts and did not comply with IGRA. Subsequently, the compacts were incorporated into new legislation to comply with the court rulings. These were thus approved by the state legislature and then signed by the governor.

In 1999, the state of New Mexico actively began negotiating compacts with the tribes by adopting the Compact Negotiation Act. This would make the process of compact negotiations between the state and the tribes official.

But the New Mexico sports wagering movement was to face another blow when, in 2000, the state’s Attorney General sued the gaming tribes under the 1997 gaming compacts for non-payment of revenue sharing. In 2001, the New Mexico State Legislature approved a new agreement in the Tribal-State Class III Gaming Compact, giving tribal casinos the right to operate as sports betting retailers. The compact was thus signed by all the tribes, except for the Pueblo of Pojoaque and the Mescalero; however, the Mescalero tribe formally joined the 2001 compact in 2004, while the Pueblo of Pojoaque followed in 2005. As a result of this pact, there are currently five tribal casinos operating successfully in the Land of Enchantment.

New Mexico sports betting fans were in for a surprise when the installation of slot machines in private homes was legalized following a Court of Appeals decision in 2005. The law stated that subsequent machines were legal in the home as long as they came from a licensed manufacturer or distributor recognized by the state and the homeowner did not profit from the machine.

In 2007, the New Mexico State Legislature negotiated and approved amendments to the 2001 Tribal-State Class III Gaming Compact. This was signed by nine of the gaming tribes and two non-gaming tribes.

The state of New Mexico saw its first non-tribal casino, Albuquerque Downs Casino, open in 2011. Then, in 2015, New Mexico sports betting was on the path to being officially sanctioned when an update of the 2001 Tribal-Class III Act extended its powers. Under the act’s authority, the Santa Ana Star Casino and Hotel, operated by the Pueblo Tribe, became the first tribal casino in New Mexico to offer sports betting – the casino’s sportsbook accepted its first legal sports bet in October 2018. In between these developments, in 2016, Daily fantasy sports (DFS) were legalized in the state.

New Mexico’s Tribal Gaming Compact of 2018 saw the Land of Enchantment become the sixth state in the US to sanction sports betting. That same year also saw a major development across the United States. The Supreme Court overturned the 1992 PAPSA, which gave individual states the power to pass legislation to legalize sports betting.

New Mexico sports betting legalization came up against another obstacle when in 2019, a bill was enforced which prevented the state lottery from launching its own sports betting game. Fortunately for New Mexico sports betting fans, none of these bills were approved. However, in 2021, Bill HB 101, which aimed to establish a committee overseeing all sports gambling in New Mexico, failed to pass.

In 2020, the Navajo Times reported that the Navajo Gaming Enterprise had been considering moves to launch their legal sportsbooks within New Mexico. (The Navajo currently have three casinos within the state).

The year 2021 saw the Land of Enchantment make moves to formally legislate organized sports gambling, including proposals to sanction mobile sports betting due to the Covid pandemic. Ultimately, these efforts didn’t go anywhere, but tribes continue to lobby for the New Mexico sports betting legalization. Furthermore, native casinos are among the top five employment growth areas in New Mexico.

New Mexico Sports Teams

New Mexico is not particularly renowned for its sports teams – the state has no major league teams – so New Mexico sports betting fans would have to wager on a local level. However, this isn’t always an option. Some of the state’s sportsbooks, such as the Santa Ana Star Casino and Hotel, don’t permit bets on the local college athletics teams, the University of New Mexico Lobbo and the New Mexico State Aggies. Others like the Isleta Resort Casino will accept bets on the local school teams. This legislation is made by the casino and not the sportsbook operator.

Like many other US States, soccer is popular among New Mexico sports betting fans. However, with no major league teams of their own, they would most likely look further afield. It would therefore be expected that any National League Football (NFL) wagers among New Mexico sports betting enthusiasts would be placed on international teams such as the Dallas Cowboys, Arizona Cardinals, Denver Broncos, or Houston Texans. 

Baseball is another popular sport in the Land of Enchantment. However, as with soccer, any New Mexico sports betting fans would likely look to neighboring states regarding Major League Baseball betting. These are likely to include teams such as the Colorado Rockies, the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Houston Astros, or the Texas Rangers. On a more local level, there are the Albuquerque Isotopes, who play in the Pacific Coast League (PCL) and are said to be the Triple-A West’s equivalent of the Major league Baseball’s Colorado Rockies. Other local baseball teams hosted in the state that New Mexico sports betting devotees might want to wager on include the White Sands Pupfish, the Roswell Invaders, and the Santa Fe Fuego, all from the Pecos League.

The state is also home to the Indoor Football League’s (IFL) Duke City Gladiators, New Mexico United and Albuquerque Sol Football Club, both of which play in the United States League (USL) Championship.

Shooting might also be a potential interest of New Mexico sports betting enthusiasts as the state is a major hub for shooting sports.

Retail Sports Betting in New Mexico

New Mexico has more than 20 tribal casinos and four tribal gaming travel centers; however, only five casinos currently allow for legal sports betting. These are the Hilton Buffalo Thunder Casino in Santa Fe, the Santa Ann Star Casino in Bernalillo, Route 66 Casino in Albuquerque, Isleta Resort and Casino in Albuquerque, and the Inn of the Mountain Gods in Mescalero. The Navajo Nation, however, is keen to expand on New Mexico sports betting, and it’s anticipated that another three tribal casinos will be offering sports betting soon. The sportsbooks at the five tribal casinos offer a range of betting options on major sports, such as the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR), the National Basketball Association, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, and Major League Baseball. Currently, some of the casinos don’t offer betting on local college sports – always check with the individual casino whether or not it offers New Mexico sports betting on school teams.

If you are keen on sports betting but don’t live near any of the five casinos currently offering it in New Mexico, why not consider a trip out of state? New Mexico sports betting fanatics can head to licensed sportsbooks in Colorado or Arizona to place a wager. Unfortunately, New Mexico sports betting hopefuls who live near the border of Oklahoma will have to wait before they can legally bet on sports in that state – a recent bill to legalize Oklahoma sports betting failed to pass. As for Texas, another vote on sports betting is expected in 2023, but with major home teams, such as the Dallas Cowboys, the campaign in the state is gaining momentum.

Tribal Casinos

Current New Mexico sports betting legislation only allows for in-person sports betting at tribal casinos. Five of the state’s tribal casinos currently offer sports betting, although the Navajo Nation has expressed its intention to expand sportsbooks to other casinos. Tribal officials are also liaising with Las Vegas-based sports betting suppliers. The word is that sportsbooks will soon be available at Fire Rock Navajo Casino, Northern Edge Casino, and Flowing Water Navajo Casino.

Daily Fantasy Sports

As in most states, Daily fantasy sports (DFS) betting isn’t unlawful through a legal loophole. When the government passed the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, it defined fantasy sports as games of skill rather than chance. So as long as they are 18 or over, New Mexico sports betting fans can wager on DFS sites, such as DraftKings, FanDuel, and Draft Day. The Fantasy Sports Trade Association and the US Gaming Commission regulate New Mexico’s daily fantasy sports betting.

Offshore Sports Betting

As online sports betting is not officially legal in the state, New Mexico sports betting enthusiasts might place wagers via offshore online sites. However, offshore sites are more likely unregulated and unlicensed, so you risk getting scammed if you choose to bet on them. Always ensure any offshore platform is regulated before you part with your cash – it should have a good reputation and be reliable. Sites based in Curacao and Costa Rica are recognized internationally and are, therefore, safe for use.

New Mexico Horse Racing & Off-Track Betting

Horse racing is extremely popular among New Mexico sports betting enthusiasts, and the New Mexico Racing Commission regulates it. Fortunately for New Mexican sports betting fans, horse racing has been legal in the state since 1947. There are five racing tracks in the Land of Enchantment: Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino in Sunland Park, Downs Racetrack and Casino in Albuquerque, Sunray Park and Casino in Farmington, and Zia Park Racetrack and Casino in Hobbs. Although these tracks all include a casino or racino, they are not owned by any tribal authority and, therefore, cannot add to New Mexico sports betting. However, the state’s racing commission has moved towards obtaining a sports betting license at one of the horse racing racinos.

Final Thoughts / Summary

Although New Mexico has yet to legalize online sports betting, tribal establishments are permitted to offer in-person sports wagers. As yet, five of the tribal casinos cater to New Mexico sports betting fans, but the Navajo Nation is keen to expand on this. Furthermore, sports betting at the native casinos is hugely popular and has seen the venues thrive since sportsbooks were introduced. It is therefore likely that the state authorities of the Land of Enchantment will revisit the idea of New Mexico sports betting legalization in the not-too-distant future.

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About Joe Kizlauskas

Joe is a seasoned iGaming copywriter and speaker who has been in the business since 2015. He's written more words on all elements of Casinos, Slots, Bingo & Sports Betting than he likes to remember, and he's contributed material to a number of well-known brands. Joe may be seen playing 5 a side, at the gym or playing games on his Playstation when he is not writing.