New Mexico is a virtual grab-bag of gambling opportunities. Whether you want to purchase a lottery ticket, play bingo, bet the ponies, spin the slots reels, enjoy a game of blackjack or toss chips at the poker tables, there are plenty of establishments all across the state that will let you do it – in a legal manner, at that. But the multitude of gambling opportunities you’ll find in person in New Mexico don’t necessarily translate to the cybernetic realm. There are countless online poker enthusiasts residing in the Land of Enchantment, but whether it’s legal to play poker online is something very few could answer with absolute assurance.
The history of gambling in New Mexico is a very long and illustrious one. Before the state had a constitution to refer to, just about any form of gambling one might desire to partake in was available. The first state law makers put an end to that, but due to popular demand, they decided pari-mutuel horse racing should be permitted. Thus race tracks began to bloom throughout the mid 1900’s. Then the 1990’s incited the biggest boom in New Mexico gambling with the start of a state lottery in 1996, and tribal gambling in 1997. But as much as New Mexico has amended its statutes over the years to follow wagering trends, the state never did bother to add verbiage in regards to online poker laws. Without specific text concerning online poker in the state’s legislation, we know it can’t be explicitly legal, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s illegal, either.
Legality of Online Poker New Mexico
New Mexico is thriving with more than two dozen casinos and racinos; obviously consenting to the idea of gambling among its residents. Since the state government hasn’t addressed the issue of online poker directly, players are left to decipher the laws of New Mexico on their own. Having conquered that process myself, I can assure you, it’s no easy task. The laws were written in intermittent segments over the years, parsed together decade after decade, resulting in a an often-times contradictory mish-mash of confusing verbiage.
My attempt to answer the question – ‘Is online poker illegal in New Mexico?’ – is one I undertake with respectable edification on the matter. But as always – and especially in the equivocal case of New Mexico – I urge anyone who wants a 100% accurate response to that question to contact a certified attorney in the state. With that said, let’s decipher the laws of gambling in New Mexico. We will also discuss briefly the possibility of online poker regulation in the Land of Enchantment.
New Mexico Statutes – Gambling
The following excerpts are taken form the New Mexico Statues, Article 19, Gambling. Note that certain text may have been condensed to preserve fluency without altering the significance of the law.
30-19-1. Definitions relating to gambling
Bet: means 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. A bet does not include:
(4) betting otherwise permitted by law;
Gambling Device: means a contrivance other than an antique gambling device that is not licensed for use pursuant to the Gaming Control Act [60-2E-1 NMSA 1978] 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…
Gambling consists of:
A. making a bet;
B. entering or remaining in a gambling place with intent to make a bet, to participate in a lottery or to play a gambling device;
C. conducting a lottery; or
D. possessing facilities with intent to conduct a lottery.
Whoever commits gambling is guilty of a petty misdemeanor.
What does it all mean? Is online poker illegal in New Mexico?
The utter abstruseness of the state’s definition of a ‘bet’ and ‘gambling device’ point to anything and everything (outside the realm of explicitly legal activities) being strictly illegal. A bet refers to all activities that might be wagered on, with or without an element of skill, thus poker is clearly among them.
A computer, laptop, mobile device or tablet could easily be termed a ‘contrivance’ capable of placing bets, and since online poker is not specifically legal, it is, by default, illegal. We know of no cases in which a person was charged with illegal gambling for playing online poker in New Mexico, but the penalty for committing illegal gambling is a petty misdemeanor.
Is New Mexico working to regulate online poker?
State officials have displayed no evidence of a desire to move forward with online poker laws. There are no drafted bills seeking review, no proposals on the shelf, no debates ongoing in the House or Senate. The Gaming Control Board hasn’t discussed online poker regulation all year, either. That doesn’t mean internet poker laws will never come to pass in New Mexico, but it certainly insinuates a long wait, likely a few years at least.
Like many other states, New Mexico is liable to sit back and watch what happens in other states, namely Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey, where online poker has been legalized. Should these states see ultimate success in this new market, New Mexico just may decide to get their hands into it as well. If not, New Mexico could remain content to offers its widespread land-based gambling industry for many years to come.