Skip to main content

New Mexico Tribal, Lottery Sports Betting Legality Challenged by State Officials

New Mexico became the sixth state to see sports wagering and ever since 16th October the gambling offering has been available at the Native American Santa Ana Star Casino. Tamaya Nation tribe overseeing the venue utilized a legislation loophole in order to give sports betting a green light, further encouraging the State Lottery to also introduce a betting-themes game. State officials are questioning to what extent such operation could be considered legal when taking into account the state set of rules.

According to a statement issued this Monday, Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho expressed his position that introducing a sports betting-themed game to the wide array of gaming offerings provided by the New Mexico Lottery is breaching the state law. He claimed that if the said game launches operation next year, it will happen in an illegal manner, as it does not comply with the regulation prohibiting sports betting within the borders of the state.

Sports Betting Operation Raises Questions

This is not going to be the first time when New Mexico Lottery has gone above and beyond in its attempts to diversify the field, even at the expense of the existing regulation. Back in 2015, there was another attempt at providing players with a lottery game called “Play at the Pump”. The proposed game linking lottery and gas stations was nixed by the New Mexico Legislature.

Now the Lottery is willing to introduce another revolutionary for the field game which stirs the pot once again as it is directly linked to the results of sports events. Players will have to make the right guess as to what the outcome of sporting events could be and guess right at least three results. However, even though the gaming offering is referred to as a spots betting-themed game, it is still considered to be directly breaching the existing regulation.

The state has not been able to devise the appropriate legislation up to this point, essentially crippling the field. In theory, betting on sports events remains illegal if we consider the state regulation. However, Native American tribes overseeing casino venues operate under Class III gaming licenses which provide them with the apparatus to offer sports betting.

State Lottery Claims Legal Operation as Well

In response to the sports betting operation which has been in progress for the past almost a month, Rep. Harper stated he will seek the official position of Attorney General’s Office and have him chime in on the issue. Through a recent statement coming from the Office of the Attorney General, it was clarified that existing tribal compacts will be subjected to a thorough inspection. Furthermore, the State Lottery is also going to be monitored.

In order to guarantee that any future moves in the wrong direction are prevented through a regulation, Mr. Harper is planning to work on the devising of a new legislation. It is going to ensure that the Lottery is unable to disregard state lawmakers and their decision. On the other hand, there are officials supporting sports betting operation in New Mexico and considering it legal through the Native American tribal compacts regulating gaming operation.

Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, claimed that the very existence of Class III gambling with its sports betting makes such operation legal within the borders of the state and therefore the tribes are not trespassing the law. When it comes to the tribal side of the issue, he considers it will have a positive impact on the local economy in the long run. Other Indian tribes in New Mexico could also pursue such gaming offering, as Santa Ana Star Casino opened a niche.

In the meantime, the State Lottery claims that the new offering complies with the existing New Mexico Lottery Act. Projected revenue of this new game reaches $30 million annually, but players will also be able to benefit the community. According to the Lottery, some $9 million of the revenue will be poured into the State Tuition Assistance Program utilized by college students. More information regarding New Mexico’s sports wagering sector is expected in the upcoming weeks.

 Author: Hannah Wallace

Hannah Wallace has been part of our team since the website was launched. She has a master’s degree in IT.