Jerry Allen

  • LegalSportsBetting spoke to different people associated with the discussions for the landscape of legal sports gambling in Washington.
  • A legal sports betting market was made a reality for the Tribal casino businesses of Washington in March of 2020.
  • The Evergreen State is currently in negotiations with multiple Tribes all hoping for a 2021 launch of the industry.

OLYMPIA, Wash.Legal sports betting in Washington was granted to Tribal casino businesses in March of this year but how long will it take for the state to see the launch of sportsbooks?

LegalSportsBetting spoke to 7 Cedars Casino and Resort CEO Jerry Allen of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, Glenn Smithson, the General Manager of 7 Cedars, and the Washington State Gambling Commission (WSGC) to discuss the topic.

There is a lot that needs to be done before the Evergreen State can roll out their sports betting market to the public but all parties involved are aiming toward a 2021 timeline for the official launch.

The Current Chatter For Washington And The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe

A lot is going on in Washington in terms of them coming up with a legal Tribal sports betting market.

The Washington State Gambling Commission (WSGC) has to work with each of the 29 Tribes (or as many of the 29 that are interested in running a sportsbook) to come up with the proper rules and regulations to open this new industry.

This could take quite a while because each Tribe is eligible to make their own requests for their gaming compacts and each need to be considered by the WSGC.

“The specifics of how sports wagering will operate is currently in negotiations with several tribes. The Gambling Commission will continue to emphasize its five pillars of sports wagering: Licensing and Regulation; Agency Funding; Money Laundering and Criminal Enforcement; Sport and Gambling Integrity; Responsible and Problem Gambling,” a spokesperson for the WSGC told LegalSportsBetting. “These five pillars are recognized throughout our state’s new sports wagering law and will continue to be the foundation for the agency moving forward.”

Glenn Smithson, the General Manager of 7 Cedars, is in charge of the negotiations with potential operators for the establishments representing the Jamestown Tribe.

Per Smithson, Tribes and casino operators meet on a weekly basis to ensure that Washington’s sports betting industry will be one of the best when it opens. Smithson said that the collaboration between the Tribes and the operators has been fantastic to witness.

As for 7 Cedars, they are in talks with a few sportsbook providers to partner with.

“We, like most of our counterparts, are doing our due diligence and meeting with many operators in the sports betting world, DraftKings being one of them as well as Pointsbet, Betfred and Bet365 to name a few,” said Smithson. “There are many sports betting operators taking a look at the Washington market; it is too early to tell who our partner will be. They all have their specialties but one thing for sure, partnering with them and the right provider is very important to the success of each casino and this exciting new gaming feature on the horizon in Washington. They can provide all services soup to nuts, from training to design of the space and much much more. Let’s face it, their expertise is something we need to put our best foot forward on this new journey.”

DraftKings is one of the biggest if not the biggest sportsbook company in the nation and they are looking to enter the Evergreen State. Perhaps it will be with the Jamestown Tribe if negotiations continue favorably.

Jerry Allen of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and the CEO of 7 Cedars Casino and Resort does not have a sure preference on an operator but he wouldn’t mind a name like that of DraftKings to run sports betting operations for his businesses.

“Obviously DraftKings has got such great name recognition for me. DraftKings is going to come up and they’re going to market inside the Seahawks’ Stadium or inside the Mariners’ Stadium and then gamblers would also find their name brand inside a Cedars Casino, I think that’s a benefit for me,” said Allen. “I think there is some power to the messaging that DraftKings can do which would probably do better than the smaller guy. The smaller guy is trying to go uphill against Goliath on that, he really is, so I like the bigger guy.”

There are still a number of negotiations taking place with the Jamestown Tribe and Allen would like to flush out the “pretenders versus contenders” of all the proposals to find the best partner for his properties. But given the choice, his preference is to a bigger named company as they will be more beneficial not just in brand advertising but in profits down the line.

Under the current sports betting law, mobile sportsbooks are prohibited but Allen as well as Smithson know exactly how lucrative they could be for the industry.

“I prefer to have an open mobile sports betting market; I know some of my friends won’t like that concept for whatever reason. I think we’ve watched the success of it out in New Jersey and what it means with it and we’ve seen jurisdictions without it. I think there is enough evidence out there where I prefer to have an open market but I would say there are as many people on both sides of that opinion,” said Allen.

The people at 7 Cedars are on the same page for a future mobile sportsbook platform in the Evergreen State.

Of course, there would need to be amendments to both the law and Tribal Gaming Compacts to make that a reality. And there is always the topic of whether or not it should be an open platform or strictly done on Tribal land.

As Allen stated, it’s about 50/50 on both sides of the spectrum of where Tribes lie on this issue and he lands on the side of a statewide accessible mobile application as does Smithson.

“Mobile sports betting has certainly been a topic of discussion but right now it is very definitely going to be a retail (on the property only) sportsbook. It is a known fact that mobile sports betting would create more awareness and certainly grow the business levels significantly,” said Smithson. “It would and could expand the market for a rural property like ours. New Jersey and Nevada’s success with mobile is a great example. That said, the casino operators are excited to have sports betting coming to our state and properties with or without mobile.”

What’s Happening Now?

With Tribes in Washington currently in discussions with partners for sportsbooks, they have also been individually requesting sports betting compact inclusions with the WSGC.

Allen told LegalSportsBetting that this will prolong the process and it would be much easier if more Tribes could come together on one request to make for a smoother and quicker opening of the legal sports betting market in the Evergreen State which is what he is trying to do with his sister Tribes.

He is already wary with the requests that have been made by Tribes like the Suquamish and Kalispel on individual levels because the WSGC needs to respectfully put together a team for each request and go over them.

If every Tribe were to do this, the process of coming up with a regulated Washington sports betting market could take much longer than the tentative 2021 launch.

In 1999, the Appendix X negotiations for video slot machines had all 28 Tribes (now there are 29) come together under one proposal. Allen thinks the state would like to see this happen for the sports betting industry but he does not think that will be possible as other Tribes have already reached out on their own to the WSGC.

There is still so much that needs to be done that even the idea of 2021 seems too soon. Allen thinks that the end of 2021 is a fair estimate as not even numbers have been discussed.

“One of the things we don’t want to do and I say it all the time is to build a $1000 safe to protect $100. I want to make sure that all these regulatory fees and costs associated with sports betting activity are reasonable. Those are some of the things I think we still have to navigate through as these negotiations now start with the Suquamish Tribe and the Kalispel Tribe in particular which are two different proposals and those questions need be answered, those have to get out there in some way shape or form,” said Allen. “Then will probably get bounced back over to the Tribal leadership, not the operators, the Tribal leadership will have to get together and decide amongst themselves how the state should be directing these costs. We got a lot going on.”

The Evergreen State would love to place wagers on their Seattle Seahawks this upcoming football season but the earliest they can hope for is 2021.

With 29 Tribes and no concrete rules or regulations, the sports betting market in Washington outside of the law’s stipulations is very much a blank slate at this point. But the Tribes and the WSGC are both excited for sports betting in Washington to become a part of the state’s gambling landscape.

“Sports wagering is the most significant change to the gambling landscape in our state in over two decades, and we are just at the beginning of our work with tribal leaders and tribal regulators to develop a system beneficial to sports wagering operators while implementing a regulatory structure that will keep sports gambling legal and honest,” said the WSGC.

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