New Mexico Gambling Income Declines Over 6-year Period

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Associated Press
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SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Tribal casino revenues and taxes from racetrack gambling in New Mexico suggest the industry is in the doldrums or contracting in areas, according to an analysis.

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A brief from the Legislature’s nonpartisan watchdog agency shows a 10% decline from 2012-2018 in annual revenues that are shared by tribal casinos with the state, shrinking from $69.7 million to $62.8 million.

State tax income from nontribal gambling — dominated by racetrack casinos — declined by 3% for the same period to $61.6 million, down from $63.4 million.

Officials at the state Gaming Control Board declined immediate comment Thursday on the statistics.

The briefing from the Legislative Finance Committee notes that growth in the online gambling industry — which is not authorized in New Mexico — may be drawing a share of the market away from New Mexico casinos.

Population demographics also rein in the industry: New Mexico saw just 1% population growth during the six-year period, trailing its fast-growing neighbors Colorado, Texas and Arizona.

The state’s 24 tribal casinos share revenues with the state under complex terms of a compact renegotiated in 2015. Shared revenues are one indication of how busy casinos are, but don’t include money from table-based games and bingo-style slots that appear to be gaining ground in the industry.

Net winnings by five racetrack casinos that operate slot machines are taxed at a 26% rate.

Recently, three tribal casinos have initiated or announced sportsbooks for wagering on sporting events after the U.S. Supreme Court last year lifted a ban outside of Nevada.

Sports betting operations are illegal by statute in New Mexico, but the tribal-state gambling compacts don’t specifically prohibit it — leaving an opening for Native American casino operators.

Any move by legislators to fully legalize sports betting runs the risk of nullifying New Mexico’s revenue sharing compact with tribes that channels more than $60 million a year into the state’s general fund to help pay for state services and public schools.

Across the country, the allure of sports betting is prompting state lawmakers to sort through complex business interests and weigh opposition from some tribe-operated casinos.

It’s unlikely New Mexico would be able raise as much money from taxes on non-tribal sportsbooks as it does through current revenue sharing.

Last year, state taxation officials estimated sports betting at racetrack casinos could bring in $21 million at a 26% tax rate.

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