State Lottery Authority, Indian casinos, horse-racing tracks all eye sports-related gambling

Former New Jersey Sen. Raymond Lesniak holds up a ticket after he cast the first bet at the Meadowlands Racetrack this month in East Rutherford, N.J. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for all 50 states to legalize sports betting, and in New Mexico, the Lottery Authority is the latest to explore offering sports-related gambling. Julio Cortez/Associated Press

The New Mexico Lottery Authority is looking into the possibility of offering a game tied to the outcomes of sporting events, the authority’s CEO said Wednesday.

Authority chief David Barden said a contract attorney for the agency is examining what the authority can or cannot do legally when it comes to sports-related betting.

One possibility is a lottery game that would be tied to football game scores, he said. For example, the lottery might offer a quick-pick parlay game. A computer would randomly pick the outcomes of three football games, and the player would win if the computer were correct for all games.

“We’re always looking for ways to increase revenues,” Barden said. He added, however, that he doesn’t envision the authority becoming a sports book offering bettors a full menu of wagering opportunities.

The U.S. Supreme Court opened the door to possible sports betting in New Mexico and other states in May when it struck down a federal law that largely prohibited sports betting outside Nevada.

The decision freed the state’s American Indian tribes with casinos to offer sports betting. It also opened the gates for proposals for off-reservation sports betting.

Ismael “Izzy” Trejo, executive director of the New Mexico Racing Commission, said Tuesday the state’s horse-racing tracks, which have slot machine casinos, should be permitted to offer sports betting.

“Our industry can’t stand to have much more competition,” he said.

Trejo, racetrack representatives and others recently attended a presentation in Albuquerque by a Las Vegas, Nev., sports book.

One major roadblock to off-reservation sports betting is the state’s compacts with gaming tribes.

Under those compacts, the state has agreed not to expand off-reservation “Class III” gaming, which under federal regulations includes sports betting. In exchange for limiting off-reservation gaming, the state gets a share of the tribes’ slot machine earnings.

The compacts permit gaming tribes to offer any type of Class III gaming.

State Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, said Wednesday the compacts would have to be renegotiated before off-reservation sports betting is legalized by the Legislature.

“That is a whole can of worms we may not be able to handle in the first year of a new administration,” Maestas said.

New Mexico will elect a new governor in November, and that person will take office Jan. 1, just a few weeks before the Legislature convenes for its regular annual session.

As for who might end up with off-reservation sports betting, “It’s totally in the theoretical stages,” Maestas said.

He said he would like to see a state authority that would offer online sports betting. Other possibilities are sports betting at the tracks and at bars, he said.

Barden of the Lottery Authority said lotteries in some states and other countries offer sports-related betting. The Delaware Lottery offers games based on outcomes of sporting events, and the state recently expanded to offer a full sports book.

Barden said the board that oversees the Lottery Authority may discuss the possibility of a sports-related game at its August meeting.

Trejo of the Racing Commission said he doesn’t believe the state can be left behind in the nationwide expansion of sports betting.

The possibilities include a racetrack offering its own sports book or teaming with other entities to offer a book, he said.

The Racing Commission, whose members are appointed by the governor, will probably examine the issue at some point, Trejo said, and a bill to permit tracks to offer sports betting could be introduced when the Legislature convenes in January.

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