New Mexico Casinos, Gambling, and Law Regulations: An Overview

Like the majority of other states, New Mexico has legalized most forms of gambling relatively recently. Nowadays, the Land of Enchantment’s gambling laws cover several forms of gambling, including lottery, poker, horse racing, charitable gambling, and tribal casinos. The state has also explored online gambling options, which has caused a lot of tension with the tribes.

This is an in-depth overview of the gambling laws in New Mexico. We’ll present a run-through of the forms of gambling currently legal in the state, as well as give a detailed look at the most significant Statues. At the end of the page, you’ll find the top three land-based gambling options for New Mexico natives.

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Gambling Laws in New Mexico — The Law Overview

The first legal form of gambling in New Mexico was introduced in 1947 when the local lawmakers legalized horse racing betting. Then the gambling landscape changed again in 1990 when the government signed compacts with the Indian Tribes after Congress had passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The first tribal casino was launched in 1995.

That same year, the then-governor Gary Johnson also legalized state lottery that joined the Multi-State Lottery Association in 1996. Nearly 15 years later, in 2011, the state allowed for one commercial casino to open in Albuquerque.

The Land of Enchantment was one of the first states to offer legalized sports betting. Even before the Supreme Court overturned PASPA in May 2018, tribal casinos were already permitted to provide this form of gambling.

Most gambling matters are covered by New Mexico Statutes 60-1A-1, et seq (Horse Racing Act) and 30-19-2, et seq (Gambling).

New Mexico Statutes

Gambling in New Mexico is defined as “Making a bet; entering or remaining in a gambling place with intent to make a bet or play a gambling device”.

New Mexico Statutes have made the “bet” an illegal component. The laws are specific enough to include just about every form of gambling. Chance and skill are both covered in the Statutes — bad news for poker players who like to use the “skill game” argument.

What we found interesting is that New Mexico Statutes state that even being in a place with the intent to make a bet is considered illegal. The first offense for breaking these laws is a petty misdemeanor, while the second offense is a felony.

At first glance, New Mexico has some of the most conservative gambling laws in the country. But they also include a few exceptions in statue 30.19.1 which allow for legal gambling:

  • Statue 30.19.1 (4): betting otherwise permitted by law
  • Statue 30.19.1 (3) a lottery as defined in this section.

New Mexico’s lawmakers are more focused on going after illegal gambling operators. Section 30-19-3 addresses restrictions against operators that conduct an illegal lottery or facilitate bets.

Statue 30-19-4 lays out restrictions against those who allow illegal gambling and gambling devices on their properties. As long as they are not directly involved in the action, the owner is only guilty of a petty demeanor.

To sum it up, New Mexico’s gambling laws are meant to protect their tribal gaming and lottery industries that generate a lot of money. There are numerous casinos across the state, so you’ll have plenty of options

What Forms of Gambling Are Allowed?

There are over 20 tribal casinos and a few commercial casinos currently operating in New Mexico. These establishments offer a full assortment of casino games, including slots, video poker, live poker, electronic table games, craps, blackjack, roulette, Ultimate Texas Hold’em and Three-Card Poker, in accordance with the New Mexico Gaming Control Board rules and regulations.

New Mexico has a state lottery that includes inter-state games and games available for New Mexico residents only. According to the state’s Bingo and Raffle Act (60-2F-1 NMSA 1978), lottery players can buy scratch-off and lotto tickets and pull-tabs. Non-profit private clubs and religious organizations are allowed to host raffle drawings and bingo nights. Tribal casinos are allowed to host high-stakes bingo games.

Live poker fans can enjoy live poker games at tribal and commercial casinos. Social poker games are not addressed by the New Mexico laws, and there are no records of someone getting arrested for setting up home-games.

Sports betting is allowed only at pari-mutuel racetracks. Horse racing is popular and has a long history while greyhound racing is forbidden. Pari-mutuel wagering has been legal in the Land of Enchantment since the 1930s.

New Mexico law books fail to address online gambling, but that doesn’t mean the activity is legal. An excerpt from the Statue 30-19.1 can be used to pursue those who conduct online gambling activities:

“‘Gambling device’ means any contrivance, other than an antique gambling device, that is not licensed for use pursuant to the Gaming Control Act, and that, for a consideration, affords the player an opportunity to obtain anything of value, the award of which is determined by chance, even though accompanied by some skill, whether or not the prize is automatically paid by the device.”

A section on New Mexico’s Gaming Control Board’s website also talks about online gaming. While it doesn’t deem the activity illegal, it doesn’t promote it either.

“Internet gambling is expressly prohibited by Federal law. This falls under 31 U.S.C.A. §5361, Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. The State of New Mexico, and the New Mexico Gaming Control Board do not regulate, license, control or in ANY way sanction, endorse or approve any Internet or on-line gambling, betting activity, wagering or any aspect thereof. Any statement, reference or opinion to the contrary is wrong. Such activity is strictly prohibited and not authorized, approved or sanctioned in any manner by New Mexico regulatory authorities.”

It seems that New Mexico’s lawmakers didn’t quite come out and said that online gambling is illegal. But given the statue 30-19.1, we would advise caution when gambling on the web.

The good news is that no one in New Mexico has been prosecuted for gambling, nor the state went after operators. With that in mind, you can play at offshore casinos and poker sites with a peace of mind.

Where to Gamble in New Mexico?

There are over 20 tribal casinos that offer a full range of games, including slots, simulcast racing, video poker, live racing, and electronic table games. Below, we’ve listed the three best casino destinations, in our opinion, for New Mexico residents.

Isleta Resort & Casino

Located only 8.5 miles from Albuquerque International Sunport, Isleta Resort & Casino is one of the most elite casino complexes in New Mexico. This place is like a lush oasis that provides all sorts of entertainment for its visitors — bingo, table games, slots, live poker — you name it. There’s even a sportsbook lounge where you can enjoy great food and fabulous cocktails while placing wagers on your favorite team. Isleta Resort is known to be benevolent towards its loyal customers, as it can be seen in their splendid promotional offering. Add to all of this their first-class VIP club, and you get an all-in-one gaming hub for gamblers of all tastes.

Buffalo Thunder Resort — Santa Fe

Featuring top-notch facilities and amenities, Hilton Santa Fe Buffalo Thunder is the largest destination casino hotel in New Mexico. It has everything you need to have an unforgettable experience — a full-service spa, first-class golf course, on-site shops, and a spacious casino gambling area where guests can take advantage of over 1,000 slot machines, table games, and much more.

If you come here frequently, you’ll be invited to the Player’s club. Every time you play, you earn points for increasingly valuable perks including discounts, rewarded slot play, dining, and more. Located only 15 minutes from downtown Santa Fe, this massive casino-hotel complex is packed with tons of fun that you can take part in 24/7, 365 days a year!

Route 66 Casino Hotel

If you’re passing by Albuquerque, there’s no better place for getting your gambling kicks than Route 66 casino hotel. Located only 20 minutes from Downtown Albuquerque, this gigantic casino resort features over 1,300 slot, roulette, craps, blackjack, bingo parlor, and poker games. No matter if you want to play all the top casino games, grab a delicious steak, or spend a night in a comfortable hotel, this lively casino hotel can cater to your needs. On top of that, there are tons of promotions on offer to make your stay even more comfortable and exciting.

FAQ

Is betting on horse racing legal in New Mexico?

Yes, it is. TVG is the only major licensed site offering horse racing betting.

What games are offered by the New Mexico Lottery?

The games spread by the New Mexico lottery include Mega Millions and Powerballs (lotto drawings), as well as scratch-off tickets.

Is smoking allowed in New Mexico casinos?

Yes, casinos are exempt from the New Mexico smoking ban.

Is online gambling legal in New Mexico?

New Mexico law books don’t specifically address internet gambling nor do they allow it. However, not one single NM resident has been prosecuted by the authorities for placing bets online.

What is the minimum gambling age in New Mexico?

It’s 18 for horse racing and lottery and 21 for casino gambling.