New Mexico Rep. Introduces New Gambling Legislation
Full casino gaming and sports betting could be coming to New Mexico if a new bill is passed into law.
Way back in 1996, a Lottery Scholarship Fund was created in New Mexico. Since that time, gambling revenues have helped to cover tuition costs for students. However, now, the money coming in is not enough. To help, Representative Ray Lara has proposed a bill that will increase revenues. The idea is to take the traditional racinos in the state and transform them into fully functioning casinos. The properties would be home to live poker, craps, and other table games. The bill also looks to add sports betting services to the state.
Bringing in More Revenues
With the gambling expansion, the state would be able to generate around $40 million annually. Of that amount, $15 million could go to the scholarship fund. The remaining amount would go towards the General Fund. According to Lara, the bill would have a dual purpose as it would help the economy by increasing tourism plus provide additional funds for scholarships.
New Mexico is home to five racetracks. Each of the tracks have casinos attached. The properties offer slot games as well as table games, but they are not in live form. They are only video versions of the games. As far as sports betting is concerned, the state only allows wagers on horse racing. With an expansion of the industry, players would have more to enjoy, which would bring in more funds to the state.
The new bill puts the New Mexico Lottery in charge of expanded gaming in the state. Senator Bill O’Neill is the co-sponsor of the measure, who said that along with boosting the Lottery scholarship fund, the bill would also bring millions to the General Fund, when lawmakers are trying to find new revenue streams to help the state’s economy.
According to O’Neill, lawmakers in the state are looking at several ways to bring in new sources of revenues. Marijuana legalization is being considered along with tax reform. When it comes to a gambling expansion, there are some negatives coming in to play. More than 10 years ago, a study was conducted by the Responsible Gaming Association which found that over 19,000 individuals from New Mexico were considered pathological gamblers.
An additional 19,000+ were classified as problem gamblers and over 95,000 were at risk. If any expansion of gambling is to pass into law, it is expected that programs will be put in place to help with any risk. Since that study took place, the state has introduced programs to help players who are considered compulsive gamblers.
Rep. Lara says that lawmakers understand the potential problems regarding an expansion. Lara commented that the racetrack casinos already have more than 20 years of experience in the industry and have a good infrastructure in place to identify any issues and work to prevent gambling addiction.
It is expected that the bill will see opposition. Tribal casinos will most likely be against the change as well as conservative groups. Proponents will more than likely use the growth of the scholarship fund as its driving point.
The Lottery scholarship fund has been very successful, sending over 128,000 high school students in the state to college. The number of students who seek tuition has grown, but the number of lottery players has not, which caused the need for more funds. Plus, the cost of tuition and fees continues to rise.
We shall see in the coming weeks if this bill gains support or if another option is considered for bringing new revenues into the state. With the gambling expansion, it seems to be a great way to fix several problems, bringing in funds for the scholarship needs as well as the General Fund.