The Santa Ana Pueblo tribe launched sports betting Tuesday at its Santa Ana Star Casino, in partnership with Nevada-based USBookmaking. In doing so, New Mexico became the sixth US state to offer full-scale, legal sports betting and the fifth since the striking down of PASPA.

Santa Ana Pueblo

New Mexico sports betting is expected to see a domino effect as other tribes follow the lead of the Santa Ana Pueblo. The Mescalero Apache tribe is rumored to be next. (Image: John Locher/AP/Shutterstock)

The launch was a low key affair, with none of the fanfare that had preceded the opening of the first sports books in states like New Jersey and Delaware, where governors and celebrities were invited to place “ceremonial bets.”

In fact, according to James Barron, a sports columnist with the Santa Fe New Mexican, the media were not permitted access to the opening of the Santa Ana Star’s sports book.

Barron went along anyway, just for the fun of it. Arriving shortly after the sports book’s noon opening, he reported a modest crowd and a line of about 10 people standing between himself and his first ever sports bet.

More Tribes to Follow

The launch comes despite no sports betting legislation having been passed — or even introduced — by lawmakers. The Santa Ana Pueblo believed that as class III gaming, sports betting was covered in their compact with the state — and it seems they were right.

The tribe received an effective green light from New Mexico’s attorney general office last week. The AG found no legal impediment to its ambitions, declaring that “sports betting at the Santa Ana Star Casino is governed by the Pueblo of Santa Ana Gaming Regulatory Commission.”

USBookmaking president and Nevada sports book veteran Vic Salerno told the SFNM last week that other tribal casinos were “well into the process” of building their owns sports books.

He declined to name any names, but industry sources told Sports Handle recently that the Mescalero Apache tribe was in the process of launching sports betting at its Inn of the Mountain Gods resort, in partnership with IGT.

Sports Betting Ops Indian-Only

State Rep. Moe Maestas (D-Albuquerque) said last week that while it was a pity the state will get no share of the revenue from sports betting, he was supportive of the tribes’ ventures, which he said could help tourism.

Maestas told SFNM there would be no question of the legislature passing a law to legalize commercial sports betting because this would violate the tribes’ exclusivity on class III gaming, as laid out in their existing compacts.

“I would rather that bettors bet with a local entity than with all these internet sites from the Bahamas,” Maestas said. “The key is allowing tribal entities to have exclusive rights to the New Mexico market.”