Football season is here and anyone who works in any type of corporate environment can attest to the watercooler banter that is currently dominating the halls. The latest office romance, reviews on the newest blockbuster and back to school stories have all been replaced by talk about favorite teams, players and most importantly current standings in the office fantasy football league.

With fantasy football and March Madness trips to Las Vegas becoming increasingly popular in recent years, it’s no wonder that legalized sports betting has blown up nationally. Little by little, state gaming commissions are working with tribal governments and mobile sports betting operators to legalize sports betting through America.

Gaming is a highly regulated practice that falls under state jurisdiction. In 2021, Washington state joined a handful of other states in allowing legalized sports wagering. In Washington, sports wagering is available only in tribal casino that have gone through the approval process with the Washington State Gaming Commission and the casino’s local gaming commission.  

Snoqualmie Casino opened the first sportsbook (an institution accepting bets from sports bettors) in Washington State September 9, 2021, the first day of the year’s NFL season. According to Nick Smith, Snoqualmie Casino Sportsbook manager, football leads in popularity for wagering, but bettors also enjoy baseball, basketball and hockey.

Popular sports betting teams have included baseball’s Seattle Mariners when doing well; basketball’s March Madness attracted big casino crowds, too. In Smith’s estimation, Australian cricket is the most uncommon and least well-known sports bet.

It’s best to stick to sports you already understand, says Lou Desmond, also known as Loud Esmond in the sports betting world. Desmond runs the sports betting resource, Steer the Line, and creates Youtube videos with introductory information on sports betting. 

Desmond doesn’t bet on the NBA much because he doesn’t follow it — but he’s been an NFL fan since childhood. “I follow closely and do my research.” Football is the “king” of sports betting, he says, as it’s one of the most popular sports in the U.S., with the most wagers placed.

Around 40 million to 50 million people participate in fantasy football leagues, in Desmond’s estimation. If you can play fantasy football, you may enjoy sports betting, he says, by applying the same in-depth analysis and skills.

“If you’re creating fantasy football teams, you’re already doing the work of a sports bettor by analyzing player matchups, which teams score more points or stop others from scoring points, and who’s more likely to do well, based on previous performance,” Desmond says.

Sportsbook 101

Football is the most interesting to bet on because there are so many ways to bet the game, Desmond says. “I tell fantasy football players if you think it’s fun to win $100 on a Sunday fantasy football championship, it’s also great to walk up to the sports-betting window and get $200 if you won on the moneyline,” Desmond says. 

A moneyline bet is essentially a bet on which team will win. Other common bets include the spread (difference between teams’ final points scores) and parlay (requiring a series of wins across multiple games).

One of the easiest but lesser-known ways to get into sports betting is through wagering on who will be this year’s NFL most valued player, including those with low and better odds. “It’s a fun way to put a small bet down that you can follow all season long,” Desmond says.

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Another popular method is betting on the upcoming Superbowl winner; both the NFL MVP and Superbowl winner are called futures wagers. Desmond spreads his bets between teams with lower odds of winning the Superbowl (and higher potential winnings) and teams with better odds. Dividing $500 among the 10 teams he feels most likely to win the Superbowl could earn him anywhere between $590 and $1500, he says.

In football and basketball, it’s common to bet on the point spread, Smith notes. In baseball and hockey, it’s more common to bet on a winning team.

“It’s not as scary as hard as you think. It’s coming in, having a conversation about what you like or think is going to happen, then plugging that information into a system,” Smith says of the betting process. As a side benefit, a wager makes any game more engaging — you’re now literally invested in the event or player.

First-time betting

If it’s your first time, visit a casino earlier in the week (pregame) when lines are shorter. “Talk to staff, who gladly answer any questions and walk you through the different terminology and options you have,” Smith says. You can make a bet then, or go home, consider your options, and return on game day to bet at the casino window, a kiosks or, in the case of Snoqualmie Casino,  use their  mobile app on casino grounds.

Typically, there’s an excited rush at the last minute. If Sunday’s kickoff is at 10 a.m., the line doubles at 9:30, Smith says. While waiting in line isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time, waiting can be wise to allow time to assess any possible injuries’ impact on players and teams, he notes.

Enjoying a sports-betting thrill doesn’t require big bets — a minimum of $5 is all that’s required. One interesting angle is to spread $5 over several games for a parlay (popularized in the film “Silver Linings Playbook”). For your parlay to pay out, all the games you’ve selected must win.

“There’s nothing like the energy of a sportsbook on game day. Sports fans packed in with their wagers in hand engaged in the game or games they’ve put their money on. It’s just like your living room, but a little louder,” Smith says.  

The Snoqualmie Casino Sportsbook, located in Snoqualmie Casino, is less than 30 minutes east of downtown Seattle and is currently the only Washington casino that offers a mobile app for wagering.  

RESPONSIBLE GAMING: Snoqualmie Casino is committed to promoting responsible gambling through education, enforcement and assistance programs. We also follow a carefully developed code of conduct for responsible gaming, designed to make the public aware of problem gambling resources and to make responsible gambling an integral part of casino operations.