Lawmakers propose racino table games, sports betting to benefit lottery scholarship


SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Another push to bring poker, blackjack, craps, and sports betting to New Mexico’s five-state race track casinos is making its way through the state legislative. However, lawmakers behind the latest effort think the money generated from those games should go to college students first.

Known as the NM Lottery Education Assistance Act, House Bill 101 would allow for the New Mexico Lottery to set up table games and sports betting inside of state-licensed “racinos.” Under the bill, profits generated by the new games would go to New Mexico’s lottery scholarship and the state general fund.

“We always have trouble with (the) lottery (scholarship fund,) sometimes we’ve got good funds in the state treasury, sometimes we don’t,” said Republican Senator Steven Neville of Farmington. “So those years when we don’t have (adequate funds,) we certainly need something to shore up the lottery, make sure we can send our kids to college and get them educated.”

A lawmaker with a racino in the area of his legislative district, Senator Neville is co-sponsoring the bill alongside three House representatives including Republicans Phelps Anderson and Randall Pettigrew and Democrat Raymundo Lara. Anderson, Pettigrew, and Lara did not respond to KRQE News 13’s request for comment Wednesday.

Sen. Neville says lawmakers behind the bill estimate the games would rake in about $40-million a year in profit. The bill calls for splitting those funds, with an estimated $15-million going to the lottery scholarship and the other $25-million going to the state’s general fund.

Under current state law, New Mexico’s licensed racinos are only allowed to run slots games and race track betting. That’s in accordance with the current gaming compact the state has with New Mexico’s tribal casinos. The compact fuels about $70 million in tax revenue to New Mexico each year.

View House Bill 101 here:

Sen. Neville says the addition of table games and sports betting wouldn’t break the gaming compact because the state lottery would run the new games. The racinos would not run the expanded games but instead, act as landlords of the property the games operate on.

“The benefit to the racetrack is traffic,” said Sen. Neville. “They get more people in the facility, they sell a couple beers, they sell a meal or two, and that helps them on their bottom line, but again, the actual gaming itself, those dollars would go to the lottery program.”

Sen. Neville said Wednesday he had not heard any feedback from the tribes about the proposal. So far, the proposed bill hasn’t been scheduled for a committee hearing in the 2021 legislative session.

A different proposal from racino advocates last summer called for changes that would have allowed tribal casinos to keep all their profits. In exchange, the proposal would have also allowed for racinos to expand their gaming beyond slot machines.

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