New Mexico became the sixth state to offer legal sports betting last week, but no legislation was needed to add the Land of Enchantment to that list.

At exactly noon on Tuesday, October 16, the Santa Ana Star Casino Hotel opened its betting windows and began accepting New Mexico’s first legal wagers.

The Santa Ana Star is located near the town of Bernalillo – approximately 10 miles from the state capital of Albuquerque – on Tamaya Nation tribal lands known as the Pueblo of Santa Ana. The Tamaya tribe opened Santa Ana Star in 1993, and a tribal gaming compact signed with the state government in 2016 enabled them to offer Class III gaming – a classification which includes table games and, ostensibly, sports betting.

Sovereign Status Gives Santa Ana Full Authority to Open Sportsbook

When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal sports betting ban – a 1992 law known as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) – individual states were freed to pursue legislation and regulation akin to Nevada.

Thus far, four states have taken advantage of PASPA repeal to join the Silver State in offering regulated sports wagering – Delaware, New Jersey, West Virginia, and Mississippi.

But while those states required legislative assent to make the move, New Mexico joined the list based on the state’s 2015 tribal gaming compact. Under that agreement, tribes are permitted to offer any Class III gaming activity, including “Any sports betting and parimutuel wagering including but not limited to wagering on horse racing, dog racing or jai alai.”

John Cirrincione – who serves as chief executive officer for the Santa Ana Star Casino Hotel – issued a statement affirming the Tamaya Nation’s sovereign right to accept sports wagers as Class III gaming:

“The Tribal-State Compact allows tribal casinos in New Mexico to operate all forms of Class III gaming. Sports betting is Class III gaming.

The Pueblo of Santa Ana is a sovereign nation with its own laws allowing all forms of Class III gaming in its casino.

We are extremely proud of the fact that Santa Ana Star Casino Hotel is the first tribal casino in the state of New Mexico, and one of the first in the nation, to launch a sportsbook.”

When asked about the issue, David Carl – press secretary for New Mexico’s Office of the Attorney General – confirmed that state authorities were not interested in challenging the tribe’s assertion:

“Sports betting at the Santa Ana Star Casino is governed by the Pueblo of Santa Ana Gaming Regulatory Commission.

As such, we will closely monitor New Mexico’s tribal gaming 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.”

The Tamaya Nation becomes the third tribal group to open a sportsbook, which will be operated by the Las Vegas-based US Bookmaking.

The Fort Mojave Indian Tribe – owner and operator of the Avi Resort and Casino in Laughlin, Nevada – opened its sportsbook in 2012. And earlier this year, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians became the first tribe to accept legal sports bets outside Nevada.

Local College Teams and No Online Only Limitations on Betting

Because the tribal gaming compact requires revenue sharing for electronically furnished games, the Santa Ana Star sportsbook won’t be adapted for online or mobile wagering.

But according to Cirrincione, the venue is prepared to accept action on all professional and collegiate sporting events – with the exception of local teams like the University of New Mexico Lobos or the New Mexico State University Aggies:

“Although we believe there would be interest on betting on local teams, we believe it best not to take bets on these teams.”

Jonathan Zaun

One of Gamble Online's first dedicated reporters, Jonathan has spent well over a decade reporting on the gaming industry. While breaking legal news is his main area of expertise, Jonathan is an avid blackjack player & strategist who follows professional poker closely.

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