First March Madness tournament deemed a success at ilani


Throughout the March Madness tournament, the Stadium Sports Bar and Grill has been packed during every game.

Along with people who visited ilani to enjoy the largest viewing screen in the greater Portland area, sports fans have wagered on games in Ridgefield.

For the first two rounds of March Madness, ilani’s Stadium Bar and Grill was completely full as sports fans created a standing room only area behind the sportsbook seating.

Those who were looking to place a bet on their favorite in-state college teams were not able to because of state laws in Washington. As Gonzaga University from Spokane pulled off a major win to send them to the Elite Eight, sports bettors were only able to watch and couldn’t place money on the game.

Tommy Tomillo, the director of table games for ilani, said they planned to hold a viewing party with no betting action if Gonzaga made it to the finals, although the team was eliminated from the tournament on Saturday, March 25.

Tomillo added state rules that prevent wagering on in-state colleges is common throughout the nation.

For newcomers to ilani’s sportsbook experience, they can expect to immerse themselves into a Las Vegas style of environment, Tomillo said. The Stadium Sports Bar and Grill and the sportsbook go hand-in-hand as they are located together in ilani. Ten kiosks provide an easy experience for bettors. Placing bets at the counter are still possible for bettors who prefer that over the kiosk option.

Tomillo hopes to expand on sports betting options by creating an app that allows people to place bets at their convenience from anywhere on the casino grounds. The bettor would still have to arrive at the counter or kiosks to scan a QR code to then fully place their wager since Washington does not allow mobile sports betting wagers to be placed outside of a tribal casino’s sportsbook.

Tomillo has learned a lot about what he wants to implement for next year through the sportsbook’s first March Madness tournament.

He said during the Super Bowl they charged people for the seats they had, something that didn’t happen during March Madness.

“That way you knew we had a seat for you,” Tomillo said. “We have 39 chairs, we sold 39 seats.”

The crowds that arrived for the first two rounds of March Madness stayed all day until the games concluded. Implementing paid sportsbook seats would allow the bettors to know they still have a spot to sit at even if they go somewhere else at the casino.

“Where else can you go that you can play a blackjack game, play a craps game and still be able to watch the game and not miss a play,” Lou Spetrino, the vice president of gaming for ilani, said.

Spetrino added the environment they have created and the excitement they see from bettors and sports fans alike has made ilani the place to go to watch sports.