New Mexico to Launch Legal Sports Wagering

New Mexico Betting

Earlier this month, a sixth state, New Mexico, joined the growing number of jurisdictions that are now allowing legal sports betting at their casinos. The Santa Ana Star, which is located just outside of Albuquerque, opened their betting windows at noon on Tuesday, the 16th of October 2018. The operations at the sportsbook are being powered by US Bookmaking, an American gambling company. This is the first time that US Bookmaking has expanded outside of the state of Nevada.  Given that sports gambling was banned in all the states except for Nevada until earlier this year, it is understandable why they are only venturing out of the state now.

The Land of Enchantment is the sixth US state with legal sports betting and the fifth to open up since the Supreme Court decision in May.

New Mexico Sports Wagering Launch at the Santa Ana Star Casino Hotel

Santa Ana Star Casino Hotel is a Native American casino on the Pueblo of Santa Ana in Bernalillo, New Mexico. It operates under the auspices of the Pueblo of Santa Ana Gaming Regulatory Commission. The casino is located 10 miles north of Albuquerque, the largest city in the state, which has more than half a million residents.

Santa Ana Pueblo or Tamaiya is a census- designated place (CDP) in Sandoval County, New Mexico. Tamaiya administers a total reservation land of 73,000 acres in the Rio Grande valley and is composed of Native Americans who speak an eastern dialect of the Keresan languages. According to the 2000 census, there were 479 people on the reserve, 97.29 per cent of whom identify as Native American. The natives have called the land home since the 1500s.

Santa Ana Star Casino Hotel was founded by the Tamaya people, and opened in 1993, co- located with their retail smoke shop. The casino also has partnerships with other nearby businesses. These include the Twin Warriors Golf Club and Santa Ana Golf Club, Hyatt Regency Tamaya resort, Warrior 66 Fuel gas station and convenience store, and the Santa Ana Garden Centre.

The property boasts more than 100,000 square feet of gaming space, featuring 1,475 slot machines, and 20 table games. These include most of the traditional card and dice games, such as blackjack, roulette, pai gow, 4-card poker, Let It Ride, craps and live poker. They also have five restaurants: Mesa Grille, The Feast Buffet, Cantina Rio, Lounge 54, Starlight Bar & Grill. A sixth, The Juniper Steakhouse opened earlier this year on the 4th of July 2018. Now the Santa Ana Star has a sportsbook too. Details about this newly launched amenity had been sparse. Just a few photos and social media mentions popped up, alerting every one of the big event.

Sports betting in New Mexico is limited to on- site wagering only at Santa Ana Star for now. Online gambling and even sports betting in general remain illegal elsewhere under state laws.

The existing compact between the state and the Tamaiya people allow the tribe to authorise sports gambling at their casino. However, this too is only allowed when conducted in a brick- and- mortar setting.

Sports Gambling Momentum in the USA

It has been five months since the U. S. Supreme Court issued the verdict to allow individual states to regulate their own sports betting industries. In this time, four states have joined Nevada to offer the full menu of sports betting options to their customers. This includes Delaware, Mississippi, New Jersey and West Virginia.

Delaware Sports Betting Industry

Delaware now has full legal sports betting options, including single- game wagers and futures bets. Even under the federal ban, the state was allowed one form of legal sports betting. In 2009, Delaware passed a law permitting the lottery to offer expanded forms of its parlay product. Once the SCOTUS decision was released, Delaware became the first state to launch its sports betting operation. The state’s three casinos started taking sports wagers on the 5th of June 2018.

Mississippi Sports Betting Industry

Last year, Mississippi repealed the portion of its law that was prohibiting sports betting in the state. Gaming officials were ready to move forward with regulations in the event of a favourable decision by the U. S. Supreme Court. On the 1st of August 2018, Mississippi became one of the first states outside of Nevada to offer single- game sports wagering to their customers.

New Jersey Sports Betting Industry

The launch of New Jersey sports betting signalled the end of a long legal battle that had spanned the good part of a decade.

The trouble stemmed when the state tried to pass sports betting legislation in 2009. The five largest U. S. sports leagues, the NCAA, NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB, sued the former governor of the state, Chris Christie. On one hand, NJ argued that sports betting should be a matter of states’ rights under the Tenth Amendment. On the other, the leagues cited the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 as grounds to prohibit state- regulated sports betting amenities.

NJ went ahead and passed its sports betting bill in 2012, and the leagues promptly filed an injunction. NJ lost its initial District Court battle, and then another two more in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The state then appealed to the US Supreme Court and in a surprise move, the judicial body agreed to hear oral arguments from both sides. That alone was a small win, as SCOTUS only takes up just a tiny fraction of the thousands of cases that are presented to it.

The decisive victory came on the 14th of May 2018, when the Supreme Court ruled in favour of New Jersey, striking PASPA down in full.

Less than a month later, on the 11th of June 2018, Phil Murphy, who had taken over from Christie as Governor earlier in the year, signed an updated NJ sports betting bill into law.

The state now has a booming sports betting industry. They have eight brick- and- mortar sportsbooks and eight online sports betting options, with more pooping up every day. The NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) reported sports wagering handle of USD $95 million for August of 2018 and USD $184 million for the month after, September of 2018.

West Virginia Sports Betting Industry

West Virginia officially became the fifth state in the U. S. to offer legal sports betting in August of 2018. The state had enacted a sports betting law earlier this year, in March of 2018. This was done in anticipation of a positive verdict from the Supreme Court, and the law took effect in the wake of their May 14th decision to repeal PASPA.

Nevada is no longer the only state to hold the U. S. monopoly on single- game wagering, and other states are free to legalise and regulate the activity at their own discretion.

New Mexico Sports Betting Industry

New Mexico, on the other hand has not actually legalised sports betting, nor have they considered any sports betting bills in the recent past. However, they still managed to become the sixth state in the country to bring legal sports betting options to their players. As explained, this was done by exploiting certain aspects of their tribal compacts. The Native American casino can offer limited sports betting options to their players, which only include bets placed at their physical sportsbook.

Pennsylvania and Rhode Island Sports Betting Industry

Pennsylvania is at the cusp of launching their sports betting market. Late in 2017, state legislators legalised sports betting in the state as part of a comprehensive gaming expansion bill. Again, they were not able act on this until SCOTUS gave them the green light in May of this year. While they were busy finalising the details of their regulations, New Mexico snuck in, with sports betting options at their casino.

Pennsylvania has been neck and neck with the timeline for Rhode Island sports betting as well. Voters in the Ocean State approved casino gambling twice so far, once in 2012 and again in 2016. Those two referendums authorised the construction of two Class III casinos and sports betting amenities. Rhode Island state legislators also formally authorised sports betting via the state budget process in 2018.

Both PA and RI are expected to be the last two states go live with their sports wagering options in 2018. However, that does not take away from the fact that the NM launch was a total surprise even for experts. No one saw it coming until it was imminent.

Native American Tribes and Sports Betting

There has been a growing interest among tribes to bring sports betting into their properties. It would hardly be surprising, if another state managed to sneak on to the list before the end of the year.

Native American tribes have a lot of gaming interests across the country, but not all of them are convinced that sports betting would be a good fit for them. However, it turns out that they are slowly getting on board with the idea.

The Fort Mojave Indian:

The Fort Mojave Indian Tribe, which operates the Avi Resort and Casino in Laughlin, Nevada, was the first Native- American tribe to offer sports betting in the country. The resort opened its doors to the public in 1995. It sits on the banks of the Colorado River, a 90- minute drive from the Las Vegas Strip. Their sportsbook was licensed in 2012, as Leroy’s Sportsbook, but was later acquired by William Hill.

The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians:

The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians was the first tribe outside of Nevada to offer sports betting at their casino. Earlier in September 2018, the Pearl River Resort website announced that Sportsbook at Timeout Lounge, inside the Golden Moon Hotel and Casino in Philadelphia, Mississippi was open for business. Tribal Chief, Phyliss J. Anderson, confirmed in a press release that guests could “bet on all professional league sports and major collegiate sporting events” at their property.

The Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot Tribes:

The two gaming tribes in Connecticut, the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes have shown support towards an expansion to sports wagering. Under existing agreements, the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes have the exclusive rights to offer gambling services in the state. All further expansions have to be done with respect to those agreements. Although this does not cover sports betting specifically, the presumption is that commercial sports betting would be an infringement. While it is understood that the tribes are happy to offer sports betting services to their customers, it is still not clear whether they intend to operate their sports as a tribal venture of in collaboration with commercial gambling providers.

Earlier this month, a California tribe, United Auburn Indian Community (UAIC), also signed a deal with MGM GVC Interactive LLC, the joint venture owned by MGM Resorts International GVC Holdings PLC (GVC), to offer sports betting at their casinos, if it becomes legal in the state. This partnership is a first- of- its- kind that joins the state of California and the Indian Community in such a venture. The UAIC operates The Thunder Valley Casino Resort in Lincoln. California is the largest state in the country by population. The deal between UAIC and MGM- GVC will give the gambling company access to this massive potential player base, if and when the state legislators decide to legalise sports betting.

While support for sports betting from the tribes has been low, it is clearly moving toward the expansion. The sports betting industry in the country is a novel one and possibly has a lot of kinks to work out. With time, as the sector matures, there is no doubt that more Native American tribes will be interested in bringing sports betting to their casinos.


Thomas is one of the contributors at He has a keen interest in the US gambling market, with 10 years industry experience. As a keen gambler, I can be found watching, writing or talking about a range of gambling products like casino, sports and DFS.

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