When it comes to their respective sports betting markets, Colorado and Washington state couldn’t be more different.
Colorado took its first bets in May 2020 and now features scores of mobile and retail operators, with bettors able to place wagers from anywhere within state lines. In Washington, meanwhile, only four tribal sportsbooks have taken wagers thus far, the first of which, Snoqualmie Casino, just began offering onsite mobile to its customers. The state’s sports betting market is fully controlled by the tribes, and mobile wagering is restricted to tribal casino properties.
But there’s one way in which these otherwise disparate gambling jurisdictions are in virtual lockstep: their sports bet menus, which rival The Cheesecake Factory in their comprehensiveness. In fact, when it came time to come up with a list of acceptable wagers for operators to offer, Washington opted to essentially mimic the more mature market to its southeast.
“They shaped it after Colorado, which has the most extensive list,” said Kevin Zenishek, director of operations at Northern Quest Casino near Spokane. “We agreed that Colorado’s list would be the most thorough. We initially went in and said, ‘Let’s keep track of an excluded bet list,’ but the state felt more comfortable with a list that said what was included.”
Zenishek said that, thus far, his sportsbook and its customers “are starting off conservative” with their bet options rather than, say, opting for action on the jersey number of the first or last touchdown scorer in a given NFL game or how long a tennis match might last.
“It’s definitely starting off more meat and potatoes,” Zenishek explained. “We partner with IGT and Sportradar. They’re not throwing out these crazy prop bets. They’re trying to put in a bet menu that’s meaningful for our clientele. It’s nowhere near as exotic as what’s on that overall menu. That’s not to say it couldn’t be offered, it’s just more of a conservative start. We want to make sure we do this in a meaningful way so our customers learn and are responsible.”
That being said, Chris Pendell, Northern Quest’s director of table games who also assists with the casino’s sportsbook operation, said that customers “want the props on the football games, but they’re not too exotic yet.”
He added that it stands to reason that customers will get more creative with their wagers once the Super Bowl — a veritable prop bettors’ paradise — rolls around.
Kitchen sink approach the way to go
As the CEO of the state’s first casino to open a sportsbook, Stanford Le said he was surprised how many of his customers asked to wager on cricket, which isn’t among the sports approved for wagering in the state. But Le said the process for gaining the state’s permission for such betting is “not too complicated” and that if demand for action on the sport persists, he’ll “ask for that.”
In terms of the current betting climate at Snoqualmie Casino, which accepted the state’s first legal sports wager in September, Sportsbook Manager Nick Smith said, “Right now, we only offer player props on NFL games day-of. As we get more into our mobile side of things, that’s going to be available a lot more frequently — NBA, NHL. Guests love those kinds of props.”
Seattle sports legend Shawn Kemp just made history by placing Washington State’s first Sports Wagering bet at Snoqualmie Casino. pic.twitter.com/6CdlThKfIX
— WA Gambling Comm (@WAGambling) September 9, 2021
For his part, the casino’s director of slots and sports wagering, JT Manning, said he expects to offer “some cross-sport” wagers in the future, somewhere along the lines of “[football] yards versus LeBron [James] points.”
Even as Washington bettors and sportsbooks get more adventurous, it’s highly unlikely that anyone will take advantage of the full breadth of Washington’s bet menu. But John Murray, executive director of Las Vegas’ Westgate SuperBook, said the kitchen sink strategy is “the correct approach from our perspective.”
“We try new things,” added Murray. “When Tom Brady was a free agent, we put up a prop: ‘Which team will Tom Brady take his first snap for?’ We had to run that by the gaming control board and let them know how we were going to word the prop. They reviewed it and said we could do it. We’re always trying to offer more interesting things. It’s a good marketing ploy because people will talk about it on social media, TV, and radio, and it’s just another option to offer our patrons.
“The best thing these gaming boards can do is be flexible and allow us to do new things — within reason, of course. If you don’t do that, you’re going to fall behind. If you’re surrounded by states with all these great betting menus and you’re limiting things, you’re doing your customers a disservice.”