Sports betting came to New Mexico with little warning in Fall 2018 when tribal gaming operators began launching retail sportsbooks at their casinos. The state has never passed legislation to formally legalize sports betting, but tribal gaming operators contend there is no need to wait because their existing compacts with the state cover sports betting.
New Mexico authorities have declined to take a firm position on the issue and appear content to allow tribal casinos to operate sportsbooks. Mobile sports betting remains prohibited, however, as there is no argument that additional legislation would be needed to authorize online sportsbooks.
Online betting options are therefore limited to parimutuel horse racing betting and daily fantasy sports.
Legal New Mexico Betting Sites
Horse and Greyhound Betting:
Sports Betting in New Mexico
New Mexico is now home to five retail sportsbooks, each located within a Native American casino. The first sportsbook opened in October 2018 and four others have followed suit since. The current list of New Mexico sportsbooks now includes:
- Sportsbook at the Santa Ana Star
- Sportsbook at the Hilton Buffalo Thunder
- Sports Book at Isleta Resort & Casino
- Sportsbook at the Inn of the Mountain Gods
- The Book at Route 66 Casino
Sports betting was introduced in New Mexico with little warning when the Pueblo of Santa Ana announced that they had reached a deal with sports betting services provider USBookmaking to begin taking wagers at the Santa Ana Star Casino & Hotel. This news came as a surprise because there was no pending legislation at the time to authorize sports betting in New Mexico.
However, the tribe was able to move on its own due to a 2015 gaming compact with the state that authorizes Class III gaming, which the tribes say includes sports betting. Under this interpretation of the law, tribal casinos need no authorization from the state to offer sports betting on casino property.
Santa Ana Star Casino announced that it would begin taking sports wagers on Tuesday, October 16th, 2018. This was the first casino to make such an announcement, but it would only be a matter of time before others do the same.
Buffalo Thunder Casino just north of Santa Fe followed suit in March 2019 to become New Mexico’s second sportsbook just in time for March Madness. With four tribal sportsbooks now live and the state still not having any sports betting laws on the books, the next obvious question is whether or not lawmakers are going to act.
Will Tribal Sports Betting Prompt Lawmakers to Introduce Legislation?
There are no indications that New Mexico plans to pass legislation formally legalizing retail sportsbooks or mobile betting.
Currently, the state appears content with allowing the status quo to continue. Tribal casinos may operate their sportsbooks on legally shaky ground, but the Office of the Attorney General has made no indications it plans to pursue legal action.
In 2018, shortly before the sportsbook at the Santa Ana Star opened, the Office of the Attorney General commented that it would “closely monitor New Mexico’s tribal 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.”
New Mexico lawmakers never got around to passing regulatory legislation, but the Office of the Attorney General has also never indicated an interest in taking action against tribal sportsbooks.
NM Daily Fantasy Sports
New Mexico has been ducking the question of daily fantasy sports for several years now, so fantasy sites remain on murky legal ground. FanDuel, DraftKings and other DFS sites accept customers from New Mexico based on their interpretation that New Mexico’s definition of gambling does not include fantasy sports.
Legislation was proposed to legalize DFS in New Mexico at one point, but nothing came of that effort. The attorney general has also declined to issue an opinion one way or another. As it stands now, you will have no problems signing up and playing at the best fantasy sites.
Horse Racing Betting in New Mexico
New Mexico is home to a vibrant horse racing industry with numerous racetracks in operation today that host some of the nation’s higher-echelon races.
For some perspective on the size of the industry, NM horse racing supports thousands of jobs across the state and is believed to contribute more than half a billion dollars to the state’s economy between the many trainers, breeders, racetrack employees and parimutuel wagering.
Horse racing and parimutuel wagering is regulated by the NM Racing Commission. The function of the Commission are best explained by its mission statement:
“We exist to provide regulation in an equitable manner to New Mexico’s pari-mutual [sic] horseracing industry to protect the interest of wagering patrons and the State of New Mexico in a manner which promotes a climate of economic prosperity for horsemen, horse owners and racetrack management.”
Online Racing Betting
New Mexico does not regulate advance deposit wagering (online betting), but several of the country’s largest racing betting sites do operate in the state. There have been efforts to pass legislation to regulate ADWs in New Mexico, but none have made it into law to date.
In the meantime, New Mexico residents can visit the following horse racing sites to bet online via desktop or mobile device. Each is headquartered in the United States and adheres to all federal laws.
New Mexico Racetracks
The New Mexico Racing Commission oversees horse racing at six racetracks across the state:
Off-Track Betting Facilities (OTBs)
Off-track betting in New Mexico is limited to the simulcasting offerings at each of the above tracks. Unlike some other states, New Mexico does not authorize standalone OTBs. This means all betting in NM is limited to wagers placed in-person at one of the state’s sanctioned racetracks or through one of the US-based betting sites listed on this page.
Brick and Mortar Gambling
24 brick-and-mortar casinos of varying sizes are licensed to host real money games within the state. Tribal gaming is a big revenue generator in New Mexico and tribes hold considerable sway in shaping the state’s gaming laws. It is very likely these tribes hold the key to ever legalizing online gaming.
New Mexico casinos range in size from full-fledged resort casinos to small “travel centers” with a few slot machines. Various tribal entities oversee gaming at tribal casinos, but the New Mexico Gaming Control Board, maintains a list of recognized casinos here.
The NMGCB also licenses five full-time racetracks (in addition to a track at the state fair). You can visit any of the permanent tracks in person to watch and wager on live or simulcast races. Licensed horse racing tracks in NM are permitted to host slots, video poker machines and electronic table games in addition to their parimutuel wagering options.
NM State Lottery
The New Mexico Lottery was established by Senate Bill 853 in 1995. Since then, the lottery has helped send 90,000 students from NM attend public colleges and technical colleges with funds earned from ticket sales. To date, the lottery has donated more than $616 million to education.
Tickets are not sold online at this time. Tickets may only be purchased at participating retailers in the real world. The lottery website’s FAQ page explains that tickets may not be sold online or across state lines and that any website that purports to sell tickets or “shares” in lottery pools is operating contrary to state law.
It’s really not a good idea to purchase tickets from third party websites. Even though some lottery websites may look perfectly legitimate, they break a number of state and federal laws by selling tickets online. Every lottery website that offers NM tickets operates from an overseas location. Keep that in mind the next time you’re tempted to buy a Powerball ticket over the internet. Your best bet is to head to the nearest retailer and buy one in person.
New Mexico Online Gambling Law
All gambling is considered illegal in Mexico unless specifically permitted by law. This approach leaves no question about whether or not an activity in NM is legal. If it doesn’t take place at a licensed casino or racetrack, it is unlawful. This extends to social poker games and the internet.
The Gaming Control Board makes it clear as well that social poker is illegal with the following text on its website:
Poker Games/Poker Tournaments/poker runs if money is paid for the opportunity to play and if money or prizes are being awarded as a result of the outcome of the game.
That same page also explains that online gambling is illegal under no uncertain terms. Under the “internet gambling” heading, the Board explains that online wagering is illegal under the federal law and that NM does not license, regulate or authorize any form of online betting whatsoever.
Chapter 30 Article 19 of the New Mexico Statutes considers a “bet” to be a “bargain in which the parties agree that, dependent upon chance, even though accompanied by some skill, one stands to win or lose anything of value specified in the agreement.”
The same law continues to explain that someone is considered to be participating in gambling if that person places a bet or enters a facility with the intent of placing a bet. Anyone caught participating in gambling as a player will be charged with a petty misdemeanor. The penalty for conviction includes a jail sentence not to exceed six months and a fine not to exceed $500.
It is a much more serious crime to operate a “commercial” gambling operation, which means taking a profit for operating a gambling place or assisting in the operation of such a place. A charge of commercial gambling could get you a 4th degree felony which is punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
Overall, New Mexico’s gambling laws are straightforward. There’s little room for interpretation and most forms of gambling are clearly outlawed outside of authorized facilities.