New Mexico Online Poker Legalities

New Mexico has the 5th largest land mass of all US states, but is only ranked 36th highest in population with 2,085,287 (est. 2013). With an expanse of desert terrain tapping into the third largest crude oil and natural gas production in the US, as well as an abundance of government funded programs, the economy has been flourishing for years. Tourism is another big industry for the Land of Enchantment, supplemented by a rather extensive casino industry. For now, though, it’s all made up of land-based gambling operations, with no regulated online poker rooms yet gracing the southwestern territory.

It’s no secret that there are online poker players logging into virtual card rooms from New Mexico, but without a state regulated market, one has to wonder whether playing over the internet for real money is legal, illegal or in one of those obscure, grey areas of the law. This article will delve into New Mexico’s gambling laws to determine just which category online poker might fall into.

Land-based Gambling in New Mexico

The first legalized forms of gambling in New Mexico were charitable bingo games and pari-mutuel racing. La Mesa Park opened its gates in 1946, attracting many bettors from the ranching states of Oklahoma and Texas, where pari-mutuel wagering was still outlawed. When Texas legalized horse tracks in 1987, New Mexico’s gambling industry suffered, so they turned to simulcasting, but it did little to recuperate the state’s flagging revenue. With the passage of the IGRA in 1988, legislators finally decided to negotiate tribal casino compacts, but it would take 7 more years to accomplish the task.

In 1995, a law was finally passed to permit tribal casinos. Horse racing industrialists made sure to add in a clause for racinos (although table games were, and still are, restricted). The state lottery was initiated that year as well. To date, there are 24 tribal casinos licensed in New Mexico, a third of which offer live poker rooms, sharing their revenue with the local government. The 9% tax rate generated $16.68 million for the state government in the 2nd quarter of 2014 alone. New Mexico also draws revenue from its 6 licensed horse racing tracks, 5 of which operate as racinos.

Deciphering the Laws of New Mexico as they relate to Online Poker

New Mexico’s tax coffers clearly thrive on gambling generated revenue, but regulated online poker is not a part of it – at least not yet. In order to determine the legalities of online poker, we’ll examine the text of the New Mexico Statutes, Title 30, Article 19, Gambling.

Section Text Meaning (in re online poker)
30-19-1 Definitions relating to gambling B. “bet” means a bargain in which the parties agree that, dependent upon chance, even though accompanied by some skill, one stands to win or lose anything of value specified in the agreement. A bet does not include:
(1) bona fide business transactions…
(4) betting…permitted by law;
Any wager that is legal in New Mexico is not considered a bet. Playing poker illegally would be considered betting since it is a game in which both chance and skill play a role in the outcome.
C. “gambling device” means a contrivance other than an antique gambling device that is not licensed for use pursuant to the Gaming Control Act [60-2E-1 NMSA 1978] and that, for a consideration, affords the player an opportunity to obtain anything of value, the award of which is determined by chance, even though accompanied by some skill, whether or not the prize is automatically paid by the device; Due to the ambiguous nature of this law, a computer or mobile device used to play online poker could potentially be interpreted as a gambling device.
30-19-2 Gambling Gambling consists of:
A. making a bet;
B. entering or remaining in a gambling place with intent to make a bet, to participate in a lottery or to play a gambling device;
C. conducting a lottery; or
D. possessing facilities with intent to conduct a lottery.
Whoever commits gambling is guilty of a petty misdemeanor.
Illegal betting is a petty misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum sentence of up to 6 months in jail and/or up to $500 fine.

Is Online Poker Illegal in New Mexico?

Yes. Although online poker is never specifically mentioned in the Gambling related text of the New Mexico Statutes, it does appear that playing for real money over the internet would be considered an illegal activity. The laws are extremely brief and so ambiguous that any betting activity that is not expressly authorized by the Gaming Control Act is, by default, illegal. Being that a computer or mobile device could theoretically fall under the definition of a gambling device only stands to complicate matters.

Is New Mexico working to legalize Online Poker?

Unfortunately, the topic of online poker regulation has not openly surfaced once in the state of New Mexico. On the bright side, it’s very clear that the local government enjoys generating tax dollars from multiple gambling related services. On that note, it’s feasible that as online poker spreads as a regulated activity throughout the United States, New Mexico will likely follow suit. Predicting just how many years it could take for that to happen, however, is a difficult task.

Online Poker Players from New Mexico

Although online poker is a popular pastime in New Mexico, it’s potentially illegal status has encouraged most players hailing from the Land of Enchantment to conceal their identity. The only one we do know of is Adam “delta 6788” / “delta 6789” Joseph, who has wrangled up near $70k playing online poker, both before and after the events of Black Friday.

Land-Based Card Rooms in New Mexico

There are more than two dozen casinos in New Mexico, but only 8 of them offer a live poker room. Take a moment to view the complete list below, sorted by name, location and poker room availability.

Apache Nugget Casino
Location: Cuba, NM
Poker Room: No

Billy the Kid Casino
Location: Ruidoso, NM
Poker Room: No

Buffalo Thunder Casino and Resort
Location: Pojoaque Pueblo, NM
Poker Room: Yes

Camel Rock Casino
Location: Tesuque Pueblo, NM
Poker Room: No

Casino Apache Travel Center
Location: Mescalero, NM
Poker Room: No

Casino Hollywood
Location: San Felipe, NM
Poker Room: No

Cities of Gold Casino
Location: Pojoaque Pueblo, NM
Poker Room: No

Dancing Eagle Casino
Location: Casa Blanca, NM
Poker Room: No

Downs at Albuquerque
Location: Albuquerque, NM
Poker Room: No

Fire Rock Navajo Casino
Location: Church Rock, NM
Poker Room: No

Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino
Location: Mescalero, NM
Poker Room: Yes

Isleta Casino & Resort
Location: Isleta Pueblo, NM
Poker Room: Yes

Kicks 66 Casino
Location: Santa Fe, NM
Poker Room: No

Northern Edge Navajo Casino
Location: Fruitland, NM
Poker Room: Yes

Ohkay Casino Resort
Location: San Juan Pueblo, NM
Poker Room: No

Palace West
Location: Isleta, NM
Poker Room: No

Route 66 Casino
Location: Laguna Pueblo, NM
Poker Room: Yes

Route 66 Casino Express
Location: Laguna Pueblo, NM
Poker Room: No

Sandia Casino
Location: Sandia Pueblo, NM
Poker Room: Yes

Santa Ana Star Casino
Location: Santa Ana Pueblo, NM
Poker Room: Yes

Santa Claran Hotel & Casino
Location: Española, NM
Poker Room: No

Sky City Casino
Location: Acoma, NM
Poker Room: Yes

Sun Ray Park & Casino
Location: Farmington, NM
Poker Room: No

Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino
Location: Sunland Park, NM
Poker Room: No

Taos Mountain Casino
Location: Taos, NM
Poker Room: No

Wild Horse Casino
Location: Dulce, NM
Poker Room: No

Zia Park Casino, Hotel & Racetrack
Location: Hobbs, NM
Poker Room: No

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