Last updated: June 1, 2020
Status: Sports betting is possible in New Mexico thanks to a tribal gaming compact.
ETA: Sports betting is offered by local tribes but the state itself hasn’t legalized the activity. At this stage, it’s unclear when the state may enact its own laws.
Of all the US states currently offering legal live and online sports betting, New Mexico is one of the most unique and, in some ways, complex. Although it’s possible to legally bet on sports within the state, no recent laws have been passed. Instead, what some local casinos have done is to invoke their tribal gaming rights.
To fully understand the history of New Mexico sports betting, it’s important to first look at the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Established in 1988, this law set up a legal framework through which Native American tribes could accept bets on tribal land. As the law came into effect, the federal government also created the National Indian Gaming Commission. This body oversees all tribal betting and gaming activity.
Since 1988, tribal casinos have popped up across the US in states such as California, New York, Indiana and Oklahoma. Although there is some contention with regards to federal vs. state vs. tribal rights, Native American casinos aren’t considered illegal. In fact, according to the National Indian Gaming Commission, there are approximately 460 tribal casinos across the US generating $27 billion in revenue each year.
Using the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act as a base, New Mexico’s Tamaya Nation’s Pueblo of Santa Ana began offering sports betting in October 2018. Located inside the tribe’s Santa Ana Star Casino and Hotel, the sportsbook is deemed legal because New Mexico’s interpretation of the 1988 Act allows all forms of “Class III gaming.” In practice, the definition of “Class III” activity appears to make sports betting legal.
Therefore, even though sports betting isn’t legal within New Mexico as a state, tribal rights mean you can participate in certain venues.
To reiterate, single-wager sports betting isn’t technically legal in New Mexico. However, thanks to Native American tribes enjoying certain exemptions with regards to betting and gaming, it is possible to place wagers within the state.
For further clarity, here’s a brief timeline of sports betting in New Mexico:
1988– The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act allows Native American tribes to negotiate and form their own gaming pacts outside of state laws.
1990-2000– New Mexico undergoes a lengthy process of negotiating compacts with local tribal entities.
2001– New gaming compacts are approved and signed by all tribes except Mescalero and Pojoaque.
2003– New Mexico and the Navajo Nation enter into a gaming compact.
2004– The Mescalero Apache Tribe enters into the 2001 gaming compact.
2005– The Pueblo of Pojoaque Tribe enters into the 2001 gaming compact.
2007– Amendments to the 2001 Tribal-State Class III Gaming Compact are approved.
2015– Wording within a 2015 update essentially broadens the scope of Class III activity, opening the door to sports betting.
2018– Using the 2001 Tribal-State Class III Gaming Compact, New Mexico becomes a US sports betting state.
In theory, no. In practice, yes. Across the state in general, there are no laws that permit legal sports betting. However, on tribal land, sports betting is deemed legal under the definition of Class III gaming activities. Therefore, if you want to place a sports bet in New Mexico, there are ways to do it.
Because the state itself hasn’t legalized sports betting, control of the industry rests with each tribal gaming regulator. For example, if you use the sportsbook located inside Santa Ana Star Casino and Hotel, the Pueblo of Santa Ana Gaming Commission is the main authority.
To bet on sports in New Mexico, you must be 21 or older.
As we’ve said, New Mexico sportsbooks are currently limited to tribal gaming venues. As of May 2019, you can bet in sports in the following locations:
Only tribal gaming entities can avoid the current blocks on sports betting in New Mexico. In practice, that means there are no official license holders. However, you can wager on sports if a tribal gaming commission has authorized a certain venue.
You can bet on sports and, in theory, not worry about breaking any laws in the following (previously stated) casinos:
No. At this stage, online and mobile sports betting provisions aren’t available in New Mexico.
New Mexico sportsbooks are linked to tribal casinos, which means revenue figures are hard to come by. Indeed, because tribes aren’t obligated to report specific totals, it’s unclear how profitable the industry is at this point.
Without any state laws covering sports betting, there isn’t a predefined tax rate for the sector. As a customer, there is a 6% flat rate of tax on all gambling winnings. However, it’s unclear how this would apply with regards to sports betting.
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