New Mexico Sports Betting Starts on Tuesday at Santa Ana Star Casino

New Mexico may be getting sports betting much sooner than expected. On Monday, Nevada-based sports betting solutions provider USBookmaking announced it will be providing “sports betting risk services” for Santa Ana Star Casino & Hotel in New Mexico.

According to a USBookmaking press release, Santa Ana Casino will begin taking wagers on Tuesday, October 16th.

This news comes straight out of left field, with New Mexico not at all on the radar as the next sports betting state. Prior to this week, there was no word that anyone in New Mexico was planning on initiating sports betting and no legislation had even been proposed.

USBookmaking President Vic Salerno said this in a statement:

“We have found that there is tremendous demand for a Nevada-style retail sports book operation in a multitude of casinos throughout the US. We specialize in the ability to get to market quickly and operate efficiently. We have carved out a unique position where we are a very attractive service provider to the many independent casino operations that exist today.”

Sports betting has not been legalized in New Mexico since the Supreme Court ended the federal prohibition, but USBookmaking Marketing Director Tom Willer told Gambling Insider, “It is expressly stated in the New Mexico compact between the state and Native American tribes that all forms of Class III gaming are permissible. This includes sports betting.”

It is a bold move by the tribe to introduce sports betting without the state having specifically legalized the activity, but all involved in the venture maintain they have carefully researched the issue and believe they are in the clear legally.

Furthermore, there is no indication state regulators will move to stop the tribe from introducing sports betting in New Mexico. According to the Albuquerque Journal, Office of the Attorney General press secretary David Carl indicated the state has no immediate plans to step in.

Here’s what he said:

“Sports betting at the Santa Ana Star Casino is governed by the Pueblo of Santa Ana Gaming Regulatory Commission.

“As such, we will closely monitor New Mexico’s tribal gaming compacts and work with the legislature for proper statutory and regulatory oversight to require responsible gaming and enhanced integrity to create an even playing field for all.”

There’s still no word yet on whether or not the Pueblo of Santa Ana will introduce mobile or online sports betting.

Lawmakers Galvanized to Act

This latest move by the Pueblo of Santa Ana tribe will likely galvanize state officials to seriously take up the issue of sports betting now. Under existing gaming pacts, the state will likely receive no revenue from sports betting operated by tribal casinos.

That’s because under the current gaming compact, tribal casinos only share revenue with the state for games that are operated mechanically – think slots and video poker. For games that require an employee to be in attendance, tribal casinos keep 100% of the revenue. Presumably, that will also include sports betting as staff will be required to manage the lines, take wagers and issue payouts.

State Representative Antonio “Moe” Maestas told the Albuquerque Journal that he hopes “the tribal communities find it in their interest to renegotiate the compacts to allow the entire state to benefit from the sports betting industry.”

However, Maestas also gave the tribe credit for channeling customers away from unregulated offshore betting sites. If people are going to continue betting on sports anyways, he would rather it be with the tribes than with foreign-owned betting websites.

Start of a Sports Betting Wave in the West?

A topic we touched on in a post last month discussing the Oregon Lottery’s move towards sports betting is the lack of sports betting out west. Numerous states in the Northeast and Southeast have introduced legislation and even begun taking wagers, but little action has been seen West of the Mississippi.

Delaware, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Mississippi and New York all have sports betting laws of some sort in place. The increased competition out east has at times been used as justification for lawmakers to introduce legislation of their own to avoid being left behind.

For example, the councilmember who recently introduced a sports betting bill in Washington DC pointed to the Hollywood Casino in West Virginia as one of the reasons DC needs to act now. In a press release, the councilmember explained that Hollywood Casino has openly stated it plans to “heavily” target the DC metro area due to a lack of sports betting in the DC area.

This is how action in one state can spur lawmakers in other states to act. It is a recurring theme for lawmakers to introduce new gaming legislation and say that if they don’t act, a neighboring state will vacuum money from across the border as residents travel to get their gaming fix.

Now, we have Oregon and New Mexico seriously considering sports betting out west. California is also said to be exploring its options. These are all baby steps so far with none of those states formally legalizing sports betting yet, but even small steps forward may spur lawmakers in neighboring states to take note and consider their options as well. This is just speculation of course, but we have seen a similar pattern play out east of the Mississippi.