LINCOLN CITY, Ore. (KOIN) — It might not be booming but betting on sports is good business at Chinook Winds.
Officials from the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Reservation, who own and operate the casino on the north end of Lincoln City, don’t like to talk in specific dollar amounts. But, Matthew Pond, the Assistant Operations Manager at Chinook Winds, told KOIN 6 News things are going well so far.
“Things have been really good,” Pond said. According to the numbers he was willing to share, Chinook Winds is up in two important revenue categories since they opened the first sports book in Oregon at the end of August: Gambling revenue is up roughly 15% and, more importantly, the casino exceeded its own projections for the first full month of operations by 10%.
“We started out with low limits to get started. We were taking $500 bets and things like that,” Pond explained. “Since then, we’ve doubled our limits for everything.”
When Chinook Winds started taking legal bets on sports Aug. 27, they were the first sportsbook in operation in the state in more than a decade. Sports Action, Oregon’s last attempt at legalized betting on games was dissolved in 2007.
According to Pond, unlike other tribal casinos in the state Chinook Winds has not renegotiated an agreement with the state since Sports Action shuttered. In effect, the Confederated Siletz tribes had been grandfathered in and were able to open up their sports book more quickly.
“We were allowed to (open) through our compact when a lot of the casinos weren’t,” Pond said. “It is an amenity we have that nobody else has right now.”
It took more than a year of work to build up the infrastructure needed to run the sportsbook at Chinook Winds. They chose a Las Vegas-based vendor to provide the systems, handle risk management and set the lines. After that, it came down to training employees.
“Staff training was a big part of it, Pond said. “Making sure the staff knew the ins and outs of everything so the customer didn’t have to.”
Once the doors opened, employees had to train the gamblers.
“A lot of the customers have either never gambled before or went once or twice a year to Vegas and they had no idea how to bet,” Pond said.
While it did take several months for Chinook Winds to get the pieces in place and get up to operational speed, it certainly didn’t hurt that the first bets they took coincided with the start of football season.
Although it is a small sample size, early returns show about half the money being bet on sports at the casino is being placed on the NFL. Another 30% was bet on college football. That means roughly 80% of the overall intake for the sports book is coming in because of football.
Officials at Chinook Winds said they expect it to level off some but football will likely always be the leading money getter.
“That’s pretty normal for sports books,” Pond said. “You’re going to see about half of your (sports gambling) revenue come from football every year.”
While Chinook Winds was the first tribal casino to open a sports book this time around, competition is coming. More tribes are working on plans to start taking sports bets and the Oregon Lottery is expected to launch its much-delayed gambling app within days.
Pond said Chinook Winds made the decisions to open its sports book knowing what was coming down the road. They don’t necessarily see the state, and the lottery app, as direct competition.
“We knew they were going to have an app and honestly, we thought they were going to open well before us,” Pond said. “The sports book has always been an amenity for us. We’re trying to get more trips from people that would generally go to casinos that are closer to them.”
One thing that should continue to bring people into Chinook Winds: the tribe is taking action on college football. The Oregon Lottery and its app won’t.
Still, there is some trepidation when it comes to what the app might do to their bottom line.
“It is going to be interesting to see,” Pond said. “If you live in Portland, driving two hours to place a bet when you can do it on your phone, (that) is obviously much more convenient.”