New Mexico Horse Racing Industry Gets New Commission

New Mexico Horse Racing Industry Gets New Commission

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham recently appointed new members to a regulatory commission that oversees the horse racing industry.

The move comes at a time when the state is trying to decide which of five proposals will be awarded the state’s sixth and final racetrack casino license.

Gov. Lujan Grisham removed the previous regulatory board after members stated that they could not make a decision on the sixth license until a current legal dispute was resolved.

Lujan Grishman dismissed the delay as grandstanding and removed a large portion of board members.

The awarding of a sixth racino license in the state has caused controversy after campaign records showed that Gov. Lujan Grisham received political donations from current racino owners and at least two applicants for the final license.

In a statement, Gov. Lujan Grisham downplayed the contributions and expressed confidence in the new board.

“These five individuals are experienced and knowledgeable, and I have every confidence they will ably regulate and promote the continued development of this industry,” she said.

Competition for the sixth racino comes at a time when three of the tribal-run casinos in the state currently offer sports betting.

However, none of the current five racetrack casinos in the state are legally allowed to offer sports wagering at this time.

But although state legislators have not passed a bill that would bring sports betting to current racinos, having to share future revenue with a sixth partner is why current owners are against the new license.

The new board could come to decision as early as May 16th, the date of their next meeting.

Why Are Tribal Run Casinos in New Mexico Allowed to Have Sports Betting?

In New Mexico, tribal-run casinos are not under direct regulation by the state by law.

These casinos are essentially under their own control, allowing them to introduce sports betting to customers.

The state’s compacts that empower the tribal casinos offer a unique opportunity in light of the Supreme Court decision legalizing sports betting.

“The laws are so different (in New Mexico.) It gives a lot of these tribes freedom to do things their own way,” said Robert Mann of

Tribal casinos like the Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino close to Santa Fe have already begun taking advantage of this autonomy.

The casino was immediately ready once the Supreme Court dropped their historic ruling allowing states to permit sports betting by opening a sportsbook already installed on the premises.

“We understand the tribal gaming world and we respect that world, and the tribes go along with what their compacts allow them to do,” said Jay Vaccaro, sales director for the Buffalo Thunder’s official bookmaker.

“We’re about driving business and making sure it runs smoothly, so now it’s something where everyone who walks in there can have the things that Las Vegas casinos have.”

How do the Tribal Casinos Influence the Race for the Sixth Racino License?

By seeing the revenues that casinos like the Buffalo Thunder are drawing with enticements like sports betting, owning a license to create a racetrack casino with an eye on future legalized sports wagering is potentially worth hundreds of millions in revenue.

With the board’s next meeting a couple of weeks away, the scrutiny on Gov. Lujan Grisham’s decision to replace the regulatory board with new members will certainly remain a controversial choice in the months to come.