Each of America’s 50 states have their own laws when it comes to gambling. While a few have chosen to make it outright illegal, others have seen the benefits of promoting it to bump up their tourism intake and revenue figures. Most have chosen the middle ground, making some elements of gambling legal and others not, with a few not-so-clear cases thrown in just to confuse us.
In the fifth largest and fifth least populated state, New Mexico, residents are offered pari-mutuel betting facilities, a state lottery, and licensed tribal and commercial casinos. In other words, offline or land-based gambling within the aforementioned parameters is legal. With regards to online gambling, it gets a little bit murky. That’s because while New Mexico hasn’t enacted any laws making online gambling explicitly illegal, there is also no mention in their statutes making it legal, either.
Here, we’ll take a closer look at what’s available to you as a gambler living in New Mexico when it comes to offline and online gambling. We’ll also briefly look at the world of social gaming with fun play casinos, mobile social casinos, Facebook casinos, free play online casinos, social casino apps, and free fun online slots: these are all perfectly legal alternatives as no money is being won or exchanged.
A Brief History of Gambling in New Mexico
In the years preceding World War II, all games of skill and chance were illegal under the state’s original criminal code, although many forms of gambling did take place. In the years after, as with many of New Mexico’s neighbouring states, it was the First Nations tribal areas that proved to be the major driving force in pushing for the legalisation of casino gambling. Today, the agreement between the state and these tribes is what essentially keeps the industry going. The state receives up to 26% of the revenue, while the 14 tribes involved benefit greatly, too, earning hundreds of millions annually. When it came to online gambling, the relationship was less cordial. The Navajo Nation tribe did, after all, threaten to opt out of revenue sharing if the state allowed online gambling to become legal. But, seeing as New Mexico has made no attempt to legalise or illegalise online gambling, the issue has not been pressed further.
What Kinds of Gambling are Legal?
The state’s gambling authority is known as the New Mexico Gambling Control Board, and the minimum age requirement for gambling is 18 for the lottery and pari-mutuel betting, and 21 for tribal casinos.
As a state, New Mexico has what must surely be considered the most expansive definition regarding illegal gambling activity, which is “making a bet”: just being in a place for the purpose of wagering can be considered illegal betting, according to their statutes – a first offence in this case is considered a petty misdemeanour, but a second is regarded as a felony. At first glance, therefore, you’d be forgiven for thinking that New Mexico has some of the most draconian gambling laws. But if you take a second, you’ll notice that there are certain exceptions. These include the lottery and betting that is otherwise allowed by law.
So what kinds of gambling are legal, illegal or non-specified in New Mexico? Let’s take a look…
- Casino gambling: There are 21 casinos in New Mexico, which is quite a high amount considering the state has such a small population – just over 2 million. The majority of these casinos are located in the Santa Fe and Albuquerque area, with the remaining situated strategically on the borders. These casinos are either under the auspices of several First Nations tribes or are commercially owned.
- Live poker: Numerous tribal casinos operating around the state of New Mexico offer poker rooms.
- Horse racing: Pari-mutuel betting, in this case, has been legal since the 1940s in New Mexico.
- Dog racing: This is explicitly illegal to gamble on in the state.
- State lottery: While New Mexico was late to the party when it came to legalising the lottery, it did do so eventually in 1996. The result has been a whopping contribution to the state’s General Fund of around 40 million per annum.
- Charitable gaming: New Mexico’s Bingo and Raffle Act makes it legal for non-profit organisations and recognised charities to run bingo, pull tabs and raffles. However, no casino-style games are permitted, plus all skill-based games like poker and bridge are also banned.
- Online gambling: While online gambling isn’t illegal in New Mexico, it isn’t exactly legal either. In other words, it fits into the non-specified zone. That said, while we would recommend you err on the side of caution, no-one that we know of has ever been arrested for gambling online at a licensed and regulated offshore online casino, nor has the state pursued any offshore operators. Therefore, sites like Bovada, BetOnline and Slots.LV all accept players from New Mexico, and you should be able to safely and securely play and transact there. It’s more likely that the state would go after someone trying to operate a betting site than someone who is simply gambling.
- Free play online gaming: Remember that if you perform an online search for free play online casinos, fun play casinos, free fun online slots, mobile social casinos, social casino apps, free fun online slots, and how to play Facebook casinos, you will not be transgressing any laws. As no money is being exchanged or won in return, it’s considered a perfectly legitimate form of online entertainment.
- Fantasy sports: In 2016, a motion was put forward to legalise fantasy sports as many consider it to not be “gambling”. We are still awaiting a legality ruling, so, until then, you can file this under non-specified.
From live, licensed tribal and commercial casinos, to pari-mutual betting facilities, the state lottery and more, New Mexico allows for certain types of gambling. However, when it comes to online gambling, the state still operates in a non-specific zone. But while no-one has been arrested for gambling at any of the aforementioned licensed and regulated offshore online casinos, please be aware that laws do change and get updated regularly. If you’re unsure of anything please consult a lawyer. And if winning money is not as important to you as the entertainment value derived, then free play online casinos and more offer a totally legal and safe alternative!