New Mexico Stamp

New Mexico Tribes Push Online Gambling Restrictions

New Mexico’s tribal-based casinos are in the news this week in the latest instance of a US state considering the topic of online gambling, with this being one of the more negative instances.  The latest developments have New Mexico’s Navajo Nation officials proposing an online gambling ban as part of the tribe’s new compact with the state.

new-mexico-stampThis development seems a more thoughtful approach to the matter by tribes, if every bit as anti-competitive and monopolistic as the infamous 2006 felony law passed in Washington state.  That infamous law, backed by tribal lobbying money and jammed through a friendly state legislator, made the playing of online poker a felony on the same order of transmitting child pornography — a situation so ridiculous the state’s authorities have to date refused to consider bringing a case for fear of having the law overturned.

But back to New Mexico and the latest deal being proposed to state legislators.  New Mexico is middle-of-the-road on the political scale, being nowhere a gambling hub, but also nothing like the Bible Belt states of the US South and Central Plains or Mormon enclave Utah, which is in a category of its own.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, which released the first detailed report on the new compact, the deal being proposed isn’t technically an outright ban, but is instead a “poison pill” designed to disincentivize the state from going along with online gambling plans, whether approved at the federal level or proposed by other states, as nearby Nevada plans to do.

The Albuquerque Journal report quotes Enrique Knell, a spokesman for Governor Susana Martinez, as follows: “This provision was intended to discourage the adoption of Internet gaming in the state, while ensuring that, if Internet gaming is adopted, revenue sharing continues in light of any new benefit/detriment to the (Navajo) Nation.”

While the terms of the new deal would require that the state and the Navajos would have to enter an arbitration process to consider proper compensation in the event the state ever approved online gambling, the kicker here is that the Navajos would be able to withhold revenues generated from the state’s land-based casinos and their slot-machine operations, big money generators at the present time.

And there’s a second kicker as well: Poker was not included in the terms of the original terms of the earlier compact between the tribe and state, not being among the house-banked games (roulette, craps, slots, blackjack, etc.) covered under New Mexico’s Class III gaming laws.  The newly proposed compact would specifically include poker among the online games subject to penalties awarded to the tribe if allowed in any form by the state.

The Navajos don’t seem to be believe poker would be a huge moneymaker for them, but also want to keep it from being a moneymaker for anyone else.

What’s the timetable for the proposed deal?  That remains uncertain.  The matter didn’t come up for New Mexico Legislature consideration before the spring session concluded on March 16th, but is likely to be on the docket when the state’s House and Senate reconvene in the coming weeks.

The state’s Committee on Compacts, which tentatively approved the new compact deal this spring, has promised to revisit the entire online gambling matter later this spring or summer.  At that point we’ll learn how New Mexico plans to deal with the prospect of online gambling and poker.  Will they erect barriers or attempt to seek and added revenue stream?

Right now the barriers are the odds-on fave.  But only time will tell.

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