New Mexico Could See Expanded Gambling at Commercial Racetracks

Posted on: September 21, 2020, 07:00h. 

Last updated on: September 21, 2020, 10:00h.

New Mexico’s five commercial racetracks could get expanded gaming under draft legislation to be reviewed next month by a legislative committee. It would allow the racinos to add table games, video slot machines, and in-person sports betting, as well as online gaming, and provide a 24-hour gaming floor.

New Mexico Gaming
Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino in New Mexico is among the commercial racinos which back a gaming expansion proposal. (Image: Sunland Park)

Additionally, the legislation likely would allow for unlimited slot machines. Now, each racetrack casino is restricted to just 600 slots, and operations can be open no more than 18 hours a day or 122 hours weekly, the Albuquerque Journal, a local newspaper, reported.

There are other changes, too, under the plan. ATMs and alcoholic drinks could be offered on casino floors.

Racinos could set up lines of credit for players. Complimentary golf rounds, hotel rooms, and meals could also be given to qualified players.

Proposal Could Eliminate Tribal Gaming Compacts

The Journal also reported the legislation could eliminate current revenue sharing compacts with Native American gaming properties. The tribes, which operate 21 casinos in the state, typically pay the New Mexico government between $70 million and $80 million annually.

Under the proposal, commercial racinos would end up paying more in sales tax with expanded gaming. A 2019 Union Gaming Analytics study claimed an increased number of slots, table games, and sports betting at commercial racinos could provide $62 million more in tax revenue for the state, the Santa Fe New Mexican, another local newspaper, reported.

If online gaming revenue is included in the yearly projection, the amount could jump to about $75 million, according to Ethan Linder, director of marketing for Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino, quoted in the newspaper.

Casino Expansion Could Help New Mexico’s Economy

The proposal also would lead to economic development for the state, particularly as coronavirus has led to financial downturns, supporters say. “Post-COVID, we’re going to have to rebuild this economy, and that’s one reason we’re calling this bill the Gaming Industry Recovery Act,” Scott Scanland, a lobbyist for Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino, was quoted by the New Mexican.

State Rep. Moe Maestas, D- Albuquerque, chairman of the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee, appears to support increased gaming.

The COVID-19 crisis has allowed us to re-imagine a great many things,” Maestas told the New Mexican. “Gaming, sports betting, horse racing, including off-track betting, need to be expanded in the new economy.”

Commercial racino officials have complained that the state’s tribal casinos are not restricted to the extent seen at commercial racinos. The commercial racinos remain shuttered because of coronavirus risk, the Journal said. Tribal casinos such as Isleta Resort & Casino and Route 66 Casino Hotel reopened in June after a couple months of closure.

Tourism is a key revenue generator for casinos in Indian Country. That’s particularly so during the summer months for locations such as New Mexico, said Joseph Kalt, a political economist who heads up the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, speaking to

Guy Clark, an Albuquerque dentist who opposes gaming, told the Journal the new proposal is “a massive expansion of gambling that we have never seen before.

“It is a betrayal of any attempt to restrict the amount of gambling addiction,” Clark said.

Many of the restrictions were implemented as part of a deal with gambling opponents when the legislation to allow the racinos initially was approved.

The state’s racinos are located in Albuquerque, Farmington, Hobbs, Ruidoso, and Sunland Park. The draft legislation obtained by the Journal does not list any legislators sponsoring the proposed bill.

The Legislative Finance Committee will review the proposal at an Oct. 1 meeting. Sunland Park officials are expected to testify.