About six months after Isleta Resort & Casino became the first Albuquerque area location accepting legal sports bets on the New Mexico Lobos and New Mexico State Aggies, it appears the imminent disaster and scandals some feared haven’t yet taken form.
In fact, compliance directors for both of the state’s major athletic departments tell the Journal they’ve received not a single inquiry, question, complaint or allegation of improper conduct by a player, coach, or anyone associated with either university with regards to sports betting. That is now legal in New Mexico, where at least three casinos accept wagers on in-state teams.
“We have not received or responded to any (such concerns or reports) regards to sports wagering,” Nate Flores, NMSU Associate Athletic Director for Compliance, wrote to the Journal in an email. “We have been monitoring any unusual behavior and done completed education with staff and student-athletes since sports wagering became legal in New Mexico.”
Eric Schultz, UNM’s Associate AD for Compliance, likewise said there haven’t been any issues that have been brought to his attention related to sports betting of any kind, let alone concerning the availability of betting on Lobos and Aggies games.
He also provided the Journal with part of a presentation he gives teams at the beginning of each season that highlights NCAA law and what isn’t allowed, including explanations of “insider information” that might include releasing information on injuries, suspensions or game plans before games are played.
Harold Baugus, CEO of Isleta Resort & Casino, is not surprised there have been no problems. Putting the Aggies and Lobos on the board at Isleta, he said, wouldn’t have been done unless the pueblo’s leadership was confident in the safeguards in place.
“We feel there is enough regulation and it is better to be transparent and bring that to the forefront where it is more visible to everybody to help alleviate some of that betting that might have been going on in a different venue or underground,” Baugus told the Journal on Thursday.
Essentially, the idea that sports betting isn’t already going on here has long since passed. Doing so in an open, regulated fashion, Baugus and those in the sports betting industry nationwide argue, lowers the risk of nefarious actions behind the scenes.
Baugus added neither Isleta nor USBookmaking, the out-of-state company both Isleta and Santa Ana Star’s sportsbook use to set their betting lines, have discovered any betting irregularities or been alerted to any concerns about bets over the past six months on in-state teams.
UNM and NMSU game bets are not allowed at Santa Ana, which is a partner with Lobo athletics and has the naming rights to UNM’s baseball field.
In August, both UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez and NMSU AD Mario Moccia expressed concerns to the Journal about their football and men’s basketball programs being “on the board” for legal wagers in the state and what that might mean in terms of their athletes, employees or boosters.
While both said NCAA’s longstanding prohibition of sports wagering by players and coaches has always been a part of their education, “Now, the fact is we’re going to have to do more,” said Nuñez. Moccia added “This news certainly highlights the need to hammer home the gambling education message.”
On Thursday, Nuñez said he would still be interested in additional funding, if possible, being provided to UNM and NMSU for added compliance education.
“This is still the early stages,” Nuñez said. “I don’t know that it’s got full traction yet. … Have we upped our education? Yes, and we’ve been more direct with it.”
UNM and NMSU are a part of LEAD1, an organization representing the interest of athletic directors. It is run by former congressman Tom McMillen, who has been vocal in his lobbying the past year that the majority of the athletic directors he represents oppose sports betting. He has tried getting states with legislation to legalize it to get universities a part of the revenue as well.
No such legislation is proposed in New Mexico, where sports betting isn’t legal, but the state’s tribal gaming compact doesn’t specifically prohibit it – opening the door to several Native American casino operators to open sportsbooks statewide in the past two years.