New Mexico Opens Sportsbook, Kentucky Discusses Possibilities

New Mexico on a map

New Mexico has opened its first sportsbook and Kentucky is deep in discussion about legalizing sports betting there.

The news that New Mexico was readying itself for sports betting caught a lot of people off-guard. While there have been indications that numerous states are planning for legalization, New Mexico certainly wasn’t one of them.

New Mexico sportsbook opens

The sportsbook in New Mexico came about through something of a loophole.  Sports betting in the state is limited to the Santa Ana Star Casino Hotel in Bernalillo, about 10 miles from Albuquerque.

The first sports bet was offered there on October 16. Only on-site betting is allowed; sports betting and online gambling are still illegal elsewhere in the state. Betting on NBA, MLB, and NFL games, in addition to college sports, will be available. The casino is operated by the Pueblo of Santa Ana tribe, which is made up of 500 people. There will be no bets taken on games involving New Mexico State or the University of New Mexico.

New Mexico is the sixth state to offer sports betting. Five states have legalized it since the Supreme Court overturned the federal ban in May. Mississippi, Delaware, New Jersey, and West Virginia all opened their sportsbooks after the ruling.

The New Mexico casino benefited from a loophole in the tribal gaming laws in the state. The tribe’s gaming compact with the state, which was renewed in 2015, contains clear-cut details about the tribal casinos operating in the state.

Sports betting is not mentioned. Because the tribe is allowed to offer class III games, which includes sports betting, they interpret this law as it being legal for them to offer sports betting. However, because the federal ban was still in place in 2015, the tribe did not try to open a sportsbook then.

With this ban ended, they see the space as being fair game for them. The compact will not be up for renewal until 2037, so it will be interesting to see what happens with other tribes in the state. State officials may yet mount a legal challenge mounted over this issue, but that remains to be seen.

This could have knock-on consequences in other states that have similar agreements with tribes, which could open up a can of worms that many state bodies might want to remain closed.

Kentucky potentially legalizing sports betting

Kentucky has traditionally had tight controls on the gambling sector. Despite numerous attempts over the years to change, casino gaming is still not permitted in the state.

Charitable gaming is allowed, but it is also tightly monitored because of a number of incidents involving bingo and corruption. The state does have a lottery, in operation since 1989. The Kentucky lottery was the first to offer an online game, in October 1989. Horse racing has always played a key role in the state; the Kentucky Derby is just one of its many famous races.

Lawmakers have been meeting with key stakeholders in the gambling sector to discuss sports betting legalization in 2019, and they have discussed mobile betting services and tax rates.

Representative Dennis Keane filed A BR-15 in September. That means that the Kentucky Lottery Corporation (KLC) will have to create and regulate a system for sports betting if it is supported.

This could be under the jurisdiction of the KLC or the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. The Interim Committee on Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations held a meeting to discuss sports betting legalization.

The Global Market Advisors government affairs director Brendan Bussman attended these discussions. He called upon the state to implement competitive tax rates, enact proper integrity monitoring systems, and impose strict regulations on the sector.

He also asked for mobile wagering to be considered because it would be much more convenient for betting. Another issue that was discussed was the possibility of an integrity fee in the sports betting bill.

Many of the sports leagues in the country are looking for a slice of the sports betting action. This would take the form of an integrity fee on every sports wager placed.

No state so far has included an integrity fee in its legislation to legalize sports betting. Some in Kentucky would support the introduction of such a fee, such as Senator Morgan McGarvey, as there are currently no major sports teams based in Kentucky.

He is bullish on the potential of such a bill, saying: “I think it shows Kentucky is serious about passing sports betting. They wouldn’t be spending the money on all of these lobbyists if we didn’t have a chance at passing a bill.”