By late Friday morning, customers filled the the gaming floor at Northern Quest and Casino.
Most were seated at the blackjack tables or in front of slot machines, pushing buttons with one hand and holding drinks in the other.
Soon, they’ll have another reason to visit: sports betting.
Earlier this week, the Spokane Tribe was one of nine in the state to win federal approval to immediately allow sports wagering on tribal grounds.
The Kalispel Tribe of Indians, which operates Northern Quest Casino and Resort, is expecting similar approval “any day now,” said Kevin Zenishek, executive director of casino operations.
Odds are that by mid-October, sports fans in Spokane will be able to drive to Airway Heights and place a legal wager on the Seahawks or any other NFL team.
Also on the books will be Major League Baseball, the NBA, NHL and perhaps European soccer.
Off-limits are local college teams, even if they are on the road. That means no running off to Airway Heights and plunking down a bet on the Zags to make the Final Four.
“The Legislature wanted confidence that no local team would be compromised,” Zenishek said.
However, there will be no shortage of betting options on professional contests: parlays, teasers and over/unders. If you don’t understand those terms, Northern Casino has posted a “Sports Betting 101” link.
Now all that’s left is to build the facilities that will allow bettors to make wagers on casino grounds. Northern Quest expects its sports book to be operational by mid-October.
At the Spokane Tribe Casino, general manager Javier De La Rosa said Friday that a sports book will be part of an expansion to be completed in November.
“It will all be state of the art,” De La Rosa said.
Construction of the sports book at Northern Quest is well underway, with an over/under of about 5 weeks to completion.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Zenishek said Friday as he showed off the half-finished project.
Located off the main floor near the valet parking entrance, it’s discretely hidden behind a black wall.
Behind it, workers were busy on a project that will include a full-service bar and several large television screens to show live action.
Renderings on the Northern Quest site show stadium-style seating along with tables. The walls are line with segmented LED screens that can show up to 12 different events at once.
Odds will be set by Sportradar, an international corporation that analyzes sports data.
The on-site betting system at both casinos will be managed by International Gaming Technology, an international provider of software for casinos.
Bets must be made while on casino grounds, either in-person at the sports books or at an on-site kiosk. Plans are also in the works to allow mobile betting via a cell-phone app; however, those bets also must be made on site.
“There’s a lot of excitement for this,” Zenishek said of the pent-up demand for sports betting. “A lot of people said they wanted it yesterday.”
Spokane Tribe Casino will have a similar facility, De La Rosa said. It will include a sports grill restaurant.
“With our expansion we will be doubling our footprint,” De La Rosa said.
Legal sports betting in Washington got its start in 2020, when the Legislature passed a bill that allowed sports betting in tribal casinos.
During the legislative hearings, tribal leaders advocated for sports betting, as they said it was a safe environment and would allow the money made to go back into the community.
“Not only are Indian people benefitting, but entire communities,” Rebecca George, executive director of the Washington Indian Gaming Association, told The Spokesman-Review.
In June of this year, the Washington State Gambling Commission sent amendments to tribal compacts for 15 tribes that requested to allow sports betting. Gov. Jay Inslee approved the amendments and sent them to the Federal Register for final approval.
Requests were sent by the Tulalip, Suquamish, Kalispel, Snoqualmie, Colville, Cowlitz, Jamestown S’Kallam, Lummi, Muckleshoot, Puyallup, Shoalwater Bay, Spokane, Squaxin Island, Stillaguamish and Swinomish tribes.