New Mexico bettors have a second sportsbook where they can legally wager on the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, the most popular sports betting event in the United States.
The Buffalo Thunder Casino, in Santa Fe, opened its sportsbook last week, becoming the second New Mexico gaming facility to accept wagers on sports events – just in time for peak college basketball betting. The first, at the Santa Ana Star Casino Hotel just outside Albuquerque, opened in October.
Both casinos will list odds on the tournament throughout the month.
March Madness is the most popular and lucrative sports event for people to wager on in the U.S., with an estimated $8.5 billion expected to be bet on games, according to a study commissioned by the American Gaming Association.
Of the 18 million people expected to wager on games, according to the study, 4.1 million are expected to do so at either a casino sportsbook or via a legal app.
Buffalo Thunder partnered with Las Vegas Dissemination Co., South Point Hotel and Casino and the National Sports Book Management to help manage its sportsbook operations.
According to the Albuquerque Journal, the Buffalo Thunder is the only gaming facility outside Nevada with kiosks to support race and sports hardware in addition to software support.
New Mexico is one seven states that have operational sportsbook since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 in May, a decision that struck down a federal ban on legalized sports betting outside of Nevada.
Beyond New Mexico and Nevada, sportsbooks are also open in Delaware, Mississippi, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia.
Compared to the East Coast and Midwest, where several states have either already passed bills legalizing sports betting or taking steps toward doing so, the majority of states west of the Mississippi River have not exhibited the same enthusiasm to enact similar legislation.
Thus far, New Mexico is the only western state to join Nevada in authorizing legalized sports betting.
New Mexico’s path to having operational sportsbooks was unique from states which hurriedly passed legislation approving legalizing sports betting in the past 10 months. In fact, New Mexico lawmakers did not pass any legislation.
Instead, the Pueblo of Santa Ana Tribe, which operates the Santa Ana Star, unilaterally announced in October they were opening a sportsbook at their casino.
The Pueblo of Santa Ana Tribe contended that their agreement with the state was such that they could open a sportsbook without needing approval once the Supreme Court lifted the federal ban.
Though critics have countered that New Mexico’s legislative process must be followed as in other states, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Indian Affairs supported the Pueblo of Santa Ana Tribe’s position.
The department ruled that the tribe’s gaming concord with the state permit all forms of Class III Gaming -- including sports betting.
State lawmakers have not publicly challenged the Pueblo of Santa Ana Tribe on their position. Nor did the state seek to legally challenge the agreement. No legal fight yet has begun to threaten the closure of either the Santa Ana Star or Buffalo Thunder sportsbooks.