New Mexico Lawmaker Backs Bill to Convert Racinos Into Casinos

  • The bill would allow the state's five racinos to offer live poker, blackjack, craps, and sportsbooks
  • The state-run New Mexico Lottery would operate and manage the proposed full-service casinos 
  • A large portion of new casino revenue would go towards the state's Lottery Scholarship fund
  • New Mexico's Native American leaders have voiced opposition to a similar proposal in the past
New Mexico flag on pole against blue sky backdrop
A lawmaker in New Mexico has proposed a new bill which would allow the state’s racinos to offer full casino services, including sportsbooks. [Image:]

Full-service casino offering

New Mexico could soon see an expansion to its gambling market after state representative Raymundo Lara proposed a new bill.

Current New Mexico law restricts gambling to casinos attached to racetracks and tribal casinos. The state’s five racinos only currently offer video terminal betting on poker, blackjack, and roulette. Meanwhile, the law only permits non-tribal sports betting on horse racing.

proposal would allow New Mexico’s racinos to offer live poker, blackjack, and craps

Lara put forward his new bill for the state’s upcoming 60-day legislative session, which will begin on Tuesday in Santa Fe. According to the Las Cruces Sun News, the proposal would allow New Mexico’s racinos to offer live poker, blackjack, and craps. The full-service casinos could also offer betting on sports other than horse racing. The state-run New Mexico Lottery would manage and operate the new casinos.

In a press conference, Lara said the legislation would provide vital revenue to help the state’s students and boost the economy through tourism. Of the estimated $40m per year generated through the new gambling market, $15m would go towards the state’s scholarship program.

Vital funding for New Mexico students

Since the Lottery Scholarship fund began in 1996, New Mexico’s gaming revenue has funded the state’s college students. In 2020, 24,274 people received scholarships through the program.

However, New Mexico authorities have recently struggled with dwindling funds and the high costs of education. Traditionally, the state covered full tuition fees for each scholarship recipient, but recently it has considered providing partial support to cover more students.

a win-win for the state as a whole”

According to Lara, a larger and more diverse gambling market can assist with the issue. Commenting on the benefits of the legislation, the representative said: “I truly believe this is a win-win for the state as a whole. This is going to benefit our young people. This is going to bring jobs. This is going to bring additional revenue to our communities and to our state.”

Last year, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham introduced her Opportunity Scholarship plan. Through this, she intended to provide funds for the scholarship program by taking money from the state’s General Fund. Although the proposal did not make it into action after legislators stripped its funding, the governor is currently reworking the plan. Lara said his gambling legislation will work with the governor’s proposal, rather than against it.

Tribal opposition to gambling expansion

New Mexico’s tribal nations currently hold a monopoly over sports betting in the state, as tribe leaders believe their state compacts permit sportsbook operations. As a result, the Santa Ana Casino launched the state’s first sportsbook in October 2018. Four other tribal casinos have inaugurated brick-and-mortar sports betting facilities since then.

In October last year, New Mexico’s Native American leaders voiced concerns about the expansion of non-tribal gambling in the state. The tribes argued that by allowing non-tribal casinos to offer more casino games and sportsbooks, the tribes would not be able to generate as much money for their communities.

Sandia Pueblo Governor Stuart Paisano described the suggestion as “a reckless attempt to expand private wealth at the expense of our ability to provide essential government services.” He argued that gambling expansion would violate current revenue-sharing compacts between tribes and the state.

A federally recognized Indian tribe of central New Mexico, Sandia Pueblo is one of 19 pueblos that inhabit the state.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *