Bettors get many Super Bowl choices at New Mexico’s first legal sports book By John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports February 4, 2019 at 7:30 pm BERNALILLO, N.M. – Dressed in a Patriots sweatshirt, it was easy to tell which team Jeff favored in Super Bowl LIII. The far greater challenge was deciphering and deciding on which of dozens of proposition bets to make at the Santa Ana Casino’s new sports book. Managed by Las Vegas-based US Bookmaking, New Mexico’s first legal sports book bustled with activity on an otherwise sleepy Sunday morning as fans and sharps lined up to make wagers on the big game. Santa Ana Star Casino in New Mexico While the spread made New England a three-point favorite, the dozens of available proposition bets made choosing difficult for players unaccustomed to so much variety. And that made the betting more festive for gamblers like Jeff, who preferred to remain on a first-name basis. “This is really something,” he said, staring up at the lighted board, quaint by Las Vegas super book standards, but as confusing as a calculus exam for some newcomers. “It’s a little confusing. You can bet on the first player to score a touchdown, but what if the first player isn’t up there?” He could have bet the field or chosen one of dozens of other offerings. He continued to wonder aloud about the possibilities and intricacies. A repeat customer at the sports book, he was certain his Patriots’ experience and the leadership of quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick would make the difference against the Los Angeles Rams. “Brady, he wants to be the greatest ever. But on any given day, anybody can win.” A few hours later, Jeff turned out to be right. The Patriots took home from Atlanta a bruising and unspectacular 13-3 victory. In Las Vegas, the Super Bowl handle was $145.9 million. Nevada has more than 190 sports books. At the Santa Ana Star sports book, every day sets a new record. The casino, located 17 miles outside Albuquerque, is operated under a state compact with the Tamaya native American people at the Pueblo of Santa Ana. What began humbly in 1993 has grown into a handsome, 204-room hotel with a 109,000 square foot casino, 1,600 slot machines, 20 table games – and now a sports book thanks to the enterprise of US Bookmaking president Vic Salerno. A 40-year veteran of the sports betting industry in Nevada, Salerno surprised many in the business by venturing into New Mexico at a time it wasn’t a sure bet the state would be welcoming. It appears his wager has started to pay off. Drew, a 28-year-old professional player, said he’s made the sports book a regular stop. Although he prefers the variety he gets from the Las Vegas books, playing legally in New Mexico is convenient. He favored the Rams. “I think it’s cool we’ve got a book here,” he said, his eyes moving from the board to his smart phone in an endless search for the right number. He also said he planned to take advantage of the proposition bets – even the zaniest ones. “I’m betting on the color of the Gatorade and the over-under on the length of ‘The National Anthem,’” Drew said, laughing. “I think Gladys Knight can hold a good note, you know?” Drew cashed that ticket as Knight’s beautiful rendering easily exceeded the one-minute, fifty-second over-under. For Ross and Dolores Slough, a trip to the sports book is really just a good excuse to get out and socialize. “We definitely like it,” he said. “I mean, it’s the end of the football season, but we’ve been coming throughout the playoffs. We come about once a weekend. It’s exciting. I’m glad they have it.” Then he said the words casino operators love to hear. “We’re not just coming down here to make a wager and walk out,” Ross said. “If we don’t sit down and have a drink, or go get something to eat, we’ll put a little money in the slot machine, and then we might go to Bosque (a nearby microbrewery) and have a beer.” Las Vegas sports books have long been considered an essential amenity for casino customers. They’re also a handsome hook for less frequent visitors. As Ross Slough said, “I’m not trying to win a new house or anything like that, but it makes it more enjoyable to watch a game, especially when your team isn’t in it.” It looks like the Santa Ana Star has booked a winner. Contact John L. Smith at email@example.com. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith.