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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Place your bets: Northern Quest, Spokane Tribe Casino entering the wide world of sports betting

Patrons walk past the new Sportsbook area at Spokane Tribe Casino on Monday.  (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)
Patrons walk past the new Sportsbook area at Spokane Tribe Casino on Monday. (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)

Wanna bet on who’s going to win the Super Bowl?

Now you can at one Airway Heights casino, with another not too far behind.

Northern Quest Resort & Casino officially opened its newly remodeled sportsbook betting area to the public Saturday. The Turf Club Sports Book occupies a 2,300-square-foot area of the casino with state-of-the-art digital viewing screens, a dozen stadium recliners and a full-service bar.

The Spokane Tribe Casino, meanwhile, is hoping to launch its new state-of-the-art sports betting area later this month, said Javier De La Rosa, general manager of the Spokane Tribe Casino.

The Kalispel and Spokane tribes were granted federal approval in September to allow sports betting on tribal grounds. The approvals were among those granted to 15 tribes that requested tribal compact amendments to allow sports betting. The Washington State Gambling Commission and Gov. Jay Inslee approved the amendments before they received final federal approval.

The Kalispel Tribe of Indians and Northern Quest formally unveiled the new Turf Club Sports Book on Friday with an invite-only special event. The expansion with Turf Sports Book has created about 20 new jobs, according to the casino.

The casino has partnered for all sports wagering platforms with IGT, a London-based gambling company that has partnerships with two casinos in Washington: Angel Of The Winds Casino Resort in Arlington and Snoqualmie Casino. The sportsbook area was designed by Olympia-based firm I-5 Design.

At Northern Quest, guests will be able to place bets using 24/7 electronic kiosks located inside the Turf Club and the EPIC sports bar. They can also go through retail counters that are open 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Friday and 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.

The casino plans to launch mobile sports betting in the spring , representatives said in a statement.

“Tribes not only have the expertise and infrastructure to effectively operate and regulate sports betting,” Kevin Zenishek, Northern Quest’s executive director of casino operations, said in a statement, “but they are also second-to-none when it comes to promoting responsible gaming and providing resources for problem gambling issues. We were proud to work closely with other tribes across the state as we all found a meaningful way to responsibly bring legal sports betting into Washington.”

At Spokane Tribe Casino, sports betting amenities were included with the casino’s roughly $30 million expansion that doubled the gaming space to about 40,000 square feet, increased the size of the nonsmoking gaming area to about 100 gaming machines (up from 30) and added a dedicated poker room as well as a new dining option.

The expansion increased the number of gaming machines at Spokane Tribe Casino from about 380 machines to nearly 700 and added six table games.

De La Rosa said the casino has the capacity for roughly 300 more gaming machines, but the facility has spacers between the existing machines with plastic shielding amid COVID-19 concerns. Similarly, De La Rosa said the casino’s craps tables – once closed because of COVID-19 – have reopened with limits on the number of players per table.

The renovations have put Spokane Tribe Casino in a more competitive market with Northern Quest and Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort. Northern Quest and Spokane Tribe Casino are just less than 4 miles away from each other along U.S. Highway 2 in Airway Heights.

“It’s like any other business. If they do something well, it actually benefits us also,” De La Rosa said of Northern Quest. “They do a fantastic job, first of all, operating a massive gaming environment. Anything they do well elevates what the customer expectations are, and as a result, if you remain small, customers will gravitate toward where there’s more things to do and that environment.”

As the tribe hosted an official grand opening for the expansion late last month, De La Rosa said it’s too soon to evaluate the expansion’s impact on the casino’s bottom line.

“As far as foot traffic, we’ve seen an increase in foot traffic, definitely, by about 30%,” he said. “There’re different measures: restaurant occupancy, restaurant reservations and that. And those have increased, and that sort of gives us a gauge of how much busier we are.”

Like Northern Quest, Spokane Tribe Casino is partnering with a third-party sportsbook agency to bring sports betting to the casino.

The process in getting the partnering agency licensed and approved through the state has delayed the launch of the casino’s sportsbook, De La Rosa said. He said the casino will identify the partner once that is settled.

“Physically, we’re ready to go,” De La Rosa said, “but we have yet to take our first bet.”

The Spokane Tribe Casino launched the available new amenities with an early November soft opening, holding off on the grand opening until some logistical needs – namely, some staffing needs and pending equipment such as fixtures, kitchen hoods and countertops – were addressed, De La Rosa said.

As part of the expansion, Spokane Tribe Casino rebranded the casino-floor bar Whaluks into the Grill, a quick-service restaurant linked to the sports betting area. The menu includes sandwiches, burgers, nachos, soups and salads.

“We were having problems hiring hospitality personnel. Like every other casino, and even restaurant, in the hospitality industry, we were having problems with that type of staff,” he said. “We got really aggressive in our wages for cooks, specifically, and what we call back-of-the-house staff, kitchen staff. We wanted to make sure we were competitive, and the benchmark kept going up.”

Spokane Tribe Casino isn’t done growing, either.

An additional phase is underway to build out the casino’s footprint further with a new food court and concert venue. The food court, which is still in design, is expected to have three vendors at this point, De La Rosa said, while the expected capacity of the concert venue is more than 2,000 people.

De La Rosa said construction on the food court and concert venue is expected to take 12 to 14 months.

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