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BetMGM Enters Washington State Sports Betting Market In Partnership With Puyallup Tribe

James Murphy
by in Gaming Industry on
  • BetMGM is entering Washington State’s nascent sports betting market in partnership with the Puyallup Tribe of Indians.
  • The agreement will see BetMGM operate a retail sports betting presence at the Emerald Queen Casino locations in Fife and Tacoma, Washington.
  • At this point, the tribal gaming properties are the only entities allowed to offer retail sports betting in Washington State. Currently, mobile betting is not permitted outside of a retail sportsbook.

At some point, Washington State could be a killer sports betting market. As of 2021, it is the 13th largest US state by population with 7,796,941 residents and has experienced a growth rate of 15.63% since 2010. This makes it the largest sports betting legal state west of the Mississippi (albeit by a couple hundred thousand residents over Arizona, the 14th largest state by population).

Unfortunately, ‘biggest’ in the west does not mean ‘best’ in this case. Far from it, as Washington has made many of the same mistakes (wittingly or not) as far too many other jurisdictions. Most glaring is the lack of mobile betting. If we’re going to be technically correct, there *is* mobile betting in Washington–the catch is that it’s all geofenced to the relevant retail establishment. In other words, the only place you can place mobile bets in Washington State is the only place you don’t *need* to place mobile bets: at a retail sportsbook. No mobile betting in a state is a ‘tell’ that they’re really not serious about maximizing the economic upside of sports betting. Just do the math–in Colorado, for example, 98% of bets in August were made online.

That’s not a surprise here since Washington made the other big mistake seen elsewhere–focusing exclusively on juicing in their political cronies and/or financial benefactors and not at all on creating a vibrant sports betting ecosystem. In Washington, the tribal gaming industry was gifted with sports betting despite the fact that there are several dozen commercial card rooms in the state. These businesses have endured despite constantly getting the short end of the stick–for example, they’re not allowed to operate slot machines, video lottery terminals, video pull tabs and (for now at least) sports betting. There’s a chance that this will change in the near future as the industry and some politicians are trying to make it happen. At some point, Washington State will also come into the 21st Century and get mobile betting as well.

In the meantime, the state’s retail market should be semi-lucrative. Many of the tribal gaming properties are near the major population centers such as the Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort where FanDuel is opening a retail sportsbook. They’re about an hour to an hour an a half from Seattle depending on whether you take the ferry across Puget Sound or go around it. That–along with the potential that Washington represents should they get their regulatory act together–makes it completely understandable why companies want to set up shop there. Big picture–the resources that the major gaming companies can bring to the state should help shape Washington sports betting into something decent. Kind of sad that this is how low the bar is set but there we are.

The latest big sports betting company to enter the Evergreen State is BetMGM. They’ve announced an ‘exclusive market access partnership’ with the Puyallup Tribe of Indians to operate the retail sportsbooks at the two Emerald Queen Casino (EQC) locations in Washington state. One location is in Tacoma with the other in Fife and both are around 45 minutes from Seattle. The Fife location was opened in 2005 on the site of a renovated Best Western hotel and has experienced major expansion since then. The Tacoma location opened in 2020 and is definitely the more opulent of the two venues. According to the MGM Resorts press release, sports betting will be available at both locations ‘in the near future’.

It’s unclear what sort of amenities will be available at the Fife location though they’ll at least have plenty of betting kiosks available. The real show will be at the Tacoma property–here’s how BetMGM outlined their plans in the press release:

The BetMGM @ EQC Sportsbook in Tacoma will feature state-of-the-art sports betting and viewing technology. Guests will be able to place bets at any of six ticket windows and 30 kiosks. The sports viewing area will includes a dozen 86” high-def TVs and a 500+ square foot LED Wall. EQC Fife will offer sports betting at 22 betting kiosks.

The BetMGM app will be available ‘soon’ for in-game wagering. In fact, the Emerald Queen website suggests that this will be the only way that in-running wagers will be accepted. As noted previously, you’ll have to be physically on the property to use the mobile app so I guess this is a good way to make sure it gets downloaded.

BetMGM CEO Adam Greenblatt had these comments about his company’s move into Washington State:

“Today’s announcement marks another key moment in the expansion of BetMGM as we extend our western footprint into Washington. The Puyallup Tribe and Emerald Queen Casino are ideal partners for us as they represent the same high-level of service, amenities and experiences that is built into our DNA at BetMGM.”

Frank Wright Jr., General Manager of Emerald Queen, chimed in as well:

“We are very excited to be working with BetMGM to bring legal sports betting to sports fans in the Pacific Northwest. As industry leaders, EQC and BetMGM are two entertainment powerhouses, and combined we will deliver the ultimate fan experience in sports betting.”

With FanDuel, IGT and now MGM in Washington State you can be pretty sure that they’ll be keeping the imperative for statewide mobile betting front and center.

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