By Greg Bates
GREEN BAY – Chad Fuss, the Gaming Assistant-Chief Financial Officer for Oneida Casino, stepped out of his office at about 5 p.m. on the first Saturday of December when the college football conference championships were taking place.
Fuss was curious how the new sports betting area was being received.
He walked to the main floor and saw it bustling.
“I was back there (a few mornings later) at about 11 a.m., and it was almost as busy, which is a turn because our busier times are usually between 3 and 8 p.m., regardless of what’s going on,” Fuss said. “To see lots of individuals starting to watch games and get seats at 11 a.m. on a Sunday is good.”
Oneida Casino became the first legalized sports betting operation in Wisconsin when it took its first bets Nov. 30.
According to Americangaming.org, Wisconsin is one of 31 states and Washington D.C. to offer legal sports betting.
Oneida Casino is currently only offering sports betting at its main casino across from Austin Straubel International Airport.
Trying to lock down legalized sports betting was a three-year process for the casino.
“Us, along with the 10 other tribes, can offer sports bet wagering, and that’s having a compact amendment with the governor,” Fuss said. “We went directly to the governor about three years ago. We notified him we wanted to meet with him because our compact says we can. He recognized our letter to him and then COVID hit. Right after COVID, we reengaged with the governor. For the last 18 months, we’ve been negotiating back and forth with what the compact amendment would look like. We were on the forefront of it, so we were the first ones authorized by the State of Wisconsin, the governor, per our compact amendment, to offer sports event wagering.”
Fuss said he presumes, in the next couple of years, other tribes in the state will start offering sports betting.
“We’re lucky,” Sports Betting Supervisor Eddy-Jo Skenandore said. “There’s a couple of tribes who aren’t too far behind us, but being the first to market, we’re hoping people like our business and want to stay with us.”
Because sports betting is a new venture for Oneida Casino, it’s a trial-by-fire operation for everyone involved.
“We’ve had our ups and downs,” Skenandore said. “We’ve got to learn every day; it’s a new industry, and it’s been tasking at times. We’ve got to make sure the channels are on the right station and each game that’s playing. Also, we have people ask us what sports they’d like to be offered and what futures are going to be offered. We have to reach out to our trading team and make that happen.”
Before opening, Fuss said about 10 to 15 calls would come through daily inquiring when the sportsbook would open.
“We’re learning there’s a large appetite for legal sportsbook betting in the state,” he said. “Lots of customers have been telling us, ‘Thank you.’ We feel it’s a safe place to make a bet.”
New sportsbook coming soon
Oneida Casino’s sports betting area contains a handful of tables and chairs with 15 big-screen TVs, so customers can place bets and sit down to watch events.
There are also betting kiosks in the casino — 12 next to the sportsbook and eight scattered throughout the casino floor.
Fuss said there’s a broad range of people placing bets.
He figures the ages range from 21 to the 70s, including both males and females.
“It’s a different demographic of a person coming in,” Fuss said. “It’s not your traditional slot or table games players. There’s a crossover, don’t get me wrong, but we’re seeing lots of people in through our doors (on the side) and make their way back out just to place bets.”
Skenandore said the majority of customers are placing bets and leaving right away.
The sports betting area at Oneida Casino is a temporary location.
The tribe is currently turning an existing restaurant into an approximately 2,000-square-foot, sports betting lounge.
Fuss said the casino is shooting to have the permanent lounge finished after the Super Bowl (Feb. 13), right in time for March Madness.
“Once we finish our sports bet booking lounge, that atmosphere will be similar to what you’d see in Las Vegas,” he said. “It’s going to have a full-service bar and full kitchen. It’s going to be more of a lounge-type atmosphere. It will be geared toward the social interaction piece of it – come with friends, enjoy yourself, eat, drink beverages and watch games.”
What to bet on/where to bet
Oneida Casino offers most of the betting options other states and Las Vegas have.
Customers can place live and future bets.
If a sporting event isn’t available at Oneida Casino, customers are encouraged to put in a request to have that added for the future.
“That’s what helps become a better book,” Skenandore said. “We want to better serve our customers. Any time a customer gives us a suggestion, we’re ready to help.”
The compact amendment with the state doesn’t allow betting on Wisconsin collegiate athletics.
So, the University of Wisconsin, Marquette, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee sports are off limits.
However, Packers games are fair game.
The first Packers’ home game after Oneida Casino’s sports betting area opened was against its biggest rival, the Chicago Bears.
“We got a ton of bets placed,” Skenandore said. “Monday, everybody came in to collect. It was a big weekend.”
Oneida Casino uses the company International Gaming Technology (IGT), which is the largest slot machine manufacturer in the world, to set its betting lines.
“You’re not going to find much difference on our lines than Las Vegas,” Fuss said. “Some of them you’re not going to find any difference.”
There are currently two ways to make a sports bet — which are all cash only — at Oneida Casino: through a teller or on a kiosk.
The tellers and corresponding sports betting area are open Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m., and Friday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-midnight.
On Sundays when the Packers are home, the area is open 9 a.m.-midnight.
Fuss said for anyone wanting to make a bet, a cashier will listen to what the customer is looking for and offer knowledgeable insight into how to place a wager.
As for the kiosks, they are touchscreen and user-friendly, added Fuss.
The minimum amount for a wager at a kiosk is $1 and $5 with a cashier.
Oneida Casino is currently in the testing phase for an app that would allow customers to place bets on designated tribe land without having to go inside the casino.
“That’s more conducive to in-game betting where you can do it on your phone instead of waiting at a kiosk — who’s going to make the next basket,” Fuss said. “You don’t want to wait at a kiosk.”
After a few weeks of having the sports betting area open, Fuss and Skenandore said they’ve only heard positive feedback from customers placing bets.
“They’re enjoying it,” Fuss said. “I haven’t talked to anybody who has redeemed any tickets. I’ve mostly talked to people who were making bets, and they’re happy we have this venue to offer.”
Skenandore said the customers love the convenience of having a sportsbook in Green Bay.
“Before us opening, every day somebody was saying, ‘Oh, I have to go out to Vegas to place this bet,’” he said. “But now, they can come here, and we’re excited to have their business. Hopefully, the Packers win the Super Bowl and everybody wins.”