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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports betting at Northern Quest – what are the odds?

UPDATED: Wed., May 12, 2021

This image, provided by Northern Quest Resort & Casino, is an artist's rendering of the future Turf Club Sports Book. Plans call for remodeling the Turf Club Lounge in June. (Courtesy photo)
This image, provided by Northern Quest Resort & Casino, is an artist's rendering of the future Turf Club Sports Book. Plans call for remodeling the Turf Club Lounge in June. (Courtesy photo)

State gambling officials and the Kalispel Tribe of Indians jointly announced Tuesday they have reached an agreement that would allow sports gambling to occur at Northern Quest Resort & Casino.

A tribal spokesman said the move is one of the biggest developments for the Kalispel Tribe since it first got approval in 1998 to build Northern Quest, which opened on Dec. 28, 2000.

“This is pretty monumental. This is a big deal,” said Kevin Zenishek, executive director of casino operations at Northern Quest. “We worked with the state to make sure that we could do this. The goal here was to bring a form of sports gambling that was legal and honest.”

The Kalispels are one of four tribes that have received the green light to pursue the new-gaming compact amendment. Another seven to 10 tribes are expected to be announced Wednesday, said Brian Considine, the legal and legislative manager of the Washington state Gambling Commission.

While the agreements will allow almost all gambling involving sports, the Washington Legislature added some rules that will make the compacts different from those in Las Vegas and New Jersey, he said.

“The Legislature had certain things it wanted prohibited,” Considine said. “You can bet on college sports, but not in-state college sports. So, you couldn’t bet on Gonzaga, WSU or Seattle U.

“You also cannot bet on the minor league teams, like the hockey team in Spokane or the Spokane Indians,” he continued. “What is allowed is your usual, full-fledged professional sports, Olympic sports and E-sports. You can also bet on college sports, just not in-state.”

Considine says the Spokane Tribe has also inquired about amending their compact to include sports gaming, but the tribe is not ready to announce a deal with the state yet.

Sports betting at tribal casinos became an option after a 2018 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that struck down a 1992 federal law that banned commercial sports betting in most states, Considine said.

Following that decision, the Washington Legislature last year passed House Bill 2638 to allow sports gambling at tribal casinos, but negotiations were delayed until late last summer because of the pandemic, he said.

Washington lawmakers previously made it illegal to gamble on any form of electronic device, from telegraph to the internet, he said. However, under the proposed agreements, tribal casinos would allow mobile gaming on smartphone apps as long as the gamblers remain on casino grounds.

Zenishek said that would mean that anyone can use mobile wagering as long as they are at the hotel, concert areas or casino grounds if they download the Northern Quest app. The app would not work once the person leaves casino grounds, he added.

Kalispel officials have already started prefabricating features for a remodel that will convert the Turf Club Lounge into the Turf Club Sports Book, he said.

“We are going to go under construction in June, barring any delays,” Zenishek said.

While the framework of the deals has been reached, all the tribal compacts must go through a series of state and federal approvals before sports wagering can start.

“I’d say the start of football season is the goal,” Zenishek said. “We do feel confident that it should fit into that football season if all things happen on time.”

Considine said the next step would be for state officials to draft licensing and regulations that will go before a public hearing of the Gambling Commission on June 10.

“We are hoping to have it effective by the end of August, so anybody who is ready can get licensed … and get things launched,” he said.

Each compact amendment also will require signatures from each tribal chair and Gov. Jay Inslee. They would then be forwarded to U.S. Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland for approval and publication into the Federal Register.

“This is the first expansion of gambling that I can remember since the tribes were allowed to have gaming,” Zenishek said. “The Kalispel Tribe is excited that it can bring a different kind of gaming opportunity to Eastern Washington.”

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