New Mexico’s New Proposal To Introduce Sweeping Changes To Gambling Laws
A new proposal in New Mexico is aiming to introduce a number of sweeping changes to the state’s gambling laws. The biggest change will be over the status of racetrack casinos (commonly called “racinos”), which will be treated similar to tribal casinos once the proposal becomes law.
The proposal, called the “Gaming Industry Recovery Act”, outlines a series of changes to New Mexico’s gambling industry, such as permitting operators to sell alcohol on gaming floors, expanding the allowed game types and number of slots allowed at racinos. The Act is aimed to improve the economic performance of racinos while retaining the revenues of tribal casinos.
The act is set to be presented to legislators during a meeting of the Legislative Finance Committee, scheduled for October 1, 2020.
New Mexico Gearing Up for Post-ETA Economy
One major proponent for the proposal is Rich Baugh, the General Manager of the Sunland Park Racetrack Casino. Baugh believes that New Mexico’s flagging tourism industry can benefit from added gaming options for tourists, on top of tribal casinos.
Scott Scanland, a lobbyist for the new Act, believes that it is a perfect response to boost the struggling gambling industry which has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Scanland said that the economic situation in New Mexico is set to change in the coming years due to the passing of the Energy Transition Act (ETA). Expanding the gaming scene in New Mexico could help local workers transition from the jobs expected to dissolve once the ETA goes into effect.
Racinos Set to Win Big with Proposal
The biggest winners of the proposal are racinos. Currently, only tribal casinos are allowed to offer sports bets and table games in New Mexico. The proposal expands this to racinos, who will also be allowed to offer a classic Las Vegas-style experience, replete with comped hotel rooms, food and beverages, and golf. Racinos will also be able to extend their opening hours, and offer alcohol right on the gaming floor.
Since tribal operators are bound to have reservations against this new proposal, the proposal has provision for tribal casinos to keep the $70 million they pay to New Mexico regulators each year.
Sen. Bill Sharer (R- Farmington) has cautioned that the proposal may still need more fine-tuning before it can be passed by the legislature. Sharer said that in-state advertisements for the new and improved racinos should be limited, with more marketing focus on out of state punters.