New Mexico Poker Laws
New Mexico law states that online gambling is illegal. For many years, licensed horse racing and pari-mutuel wagering was the only legal form of gambling in New Mexico. But in 1995, things began to change, as the lottery was authorized and created.
In addition, Native Americans got into the gambling game in 1995 when 13 compacts were signed with the state government. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 authorized gambling on reservations if compacts were created between the tribes and individual states, but it took several years to negotiate compacts because then-Governor Gary Johnson was forbidden by the New Mexico Supreme Court from signing the compacts. Eventually, the legislature had to approve the compacts and the governor did sign them. In the end, a total of 13 tribes signed at the time with another doing so several years later.
Today, nearly two dozen casinos operate throughout the state, most offering the full casino experience with slot machines and table games. All operate under the amended 2001 Tribal-State Class III Gaming Compact that was approved by the New Mexico legislature. There are nine gaming tribes and two non-gaming tribes now included.
Other forms of legal gambling include bingo for senior citizens and the manufacturing and exporting of gaming devices.
Latest Developments Regarding Online Poker in New Mexico
There have been no efforts by New Mexico legislators to consider legalizing and/or regulating online poker. Tribal representatives have made very clear on several occasions that they are not supportive of online gambling, and their lack of interest makes the point of trying to regulate the games online moot.
The only recent news attached to New Mexico came when former Governor Gary Johnson ran for the United States presidency on several occasions, each time noting his views that online poker and gambling should be legal. As a member of the Libertarian Party, Johnson was a serious candidate in several nationwide elections as a third-party candidate, but he was rarely invited to do interviews or participate in debates.
When Johnson ran in 2008, he made a point to visit the World Series of Poker and answer questions at the Poker Players Alliance’s booth outside of the WSOP tournament room. He became a very vocal supporter of federally legal online poker, even dedicating a page on his campaign website to the issue. While he did not speak about it as much during his 2016 campaign, several articles about him mentioned his staunch support of legal online gambling and daily fantasy sports.
During his time as the governor of New Mexico, however, Johnson did not make any special efforts to pass laws legalizing any forms of online gambling.
New Mexico Laws Pertinent to Online Poker
The first section starts with definitions, wherein gambling itself is not defined. A bet, however, is defined as 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.” And a gambling device is
“a contrivance that is not licensed pursuant to the Gaming Control Act 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.”
Per the next section, gambling consists of making a bet, being in a place with the intent to bet, conducting a lottery, or possessing the facilities necessary to conduct a lottery. A gambling offense is only classified as a “petty misdemeanor.”
Commercial gambling, however, consists of participating in the earnings or operation of a gambling place, recording or receiving bets, having custody of anything of valued to be bet, or conducting a lottery. More pertinent to online poker, however, is the inclusion of “setting up for use, the purpose of gambling, or collecting the proceeds of, any gambling device.” This could be an online poker site, server, or operation. Further, dealing in gambling devices pertains to “anything which he knows evidences, purports to evidence or is designed to evidence participation in gabling or any device which he knows is designed exclusively for gambling purposes.”
The last section discusses accepting things of value for profit to be used for gambling.
“It is unlawful for any person to, directly or indirectly, knowingly accept for a fee, property, salary or reward anything of value from another to be transmitted or delivered for gambling or pari-mutuel wagering on the results of a race, sporting event, contest or other game of skill or chance or any other unknown or contingent future event or occurrence whatsoever.”
This is punishable on the basis of a fourth-degree felony.
The New Mexico Gaming Control Board gets more specific, however. On its guide to gambling and gambling activities for the state, it lists internet gambling and wagering. It reads:
“Internet gambling is expressly prohibited by federal law. This falls under Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. The State of New Mexico, and the New Mexico Gaming Control Board do not regulate, license, control or in ANY way sanction, endorse or approve an internet or online gambling, betting activity, wagering or any aspect thereof. Any statement, reference or opinion to the contrary is wrong. Such activity is strictly prohibited and not authorized, approved or sanctioned in any manner by New Mexico regulatory authorities.”
Disclaimer: This is not written by an attorney and is not or should not be construed as legal advice. Please consult an attorney for help interpreting these laws as they pertain to any given situation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: How are sites able to offer online poker to people in New Mexico if it’s illegal?
Answer: The sites we recommend for online poker hire attorneys who specialize in gambling laws, and they have determined that the games are not illegal. The poker operators take full responsibility for their actions, and players can choose to patronize the sites or choose live poker.
Question: Am I in danger of prosecution for playing online poker?
Answer: The laws are fairly vague about the players’ culpability for gambling, and players have never been prosecuted in America for choosing internet sites. If an online poker site does run into legal trouble, players are not likely to experience any personal repercussions.
Question: Why is New Mexico so opposed to online poker?
Answer: It appears that the Native American tribes are opposed to online poker and gaming. Speculation indicates that tribes fear online gambling will keep people from visiting their casinos and have a negative impact on their revenue. Licensing fees can also be quite expensive, and tribes may not want to pay any more fees to the government than they already do in gambling taxes. This is all speculation, however, as there have been no public hearings on the subject to gather testimony or official opinions on the matter.