Vegas Odds-making Icon Leaves Wynn For DraftKings

Vegas Odds-making Icon Leaves Wynn For DraftKings

The move of veteran oddsmaker Johnny Avello from his long-time slot at Wynn to DraftKings is certain to impact the burgeoning national sports betting market in numerous ways.

Chief among them is whether Avello, 65, leaving Wynn Las Vegas as sports book director after 13 years will signal a transition of trusted veterans from land-based sports books to online operators hoping to eventually set up brick-and-mortar shops.

The May repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 has allowed states to legalize sports betting, with New Jersey – where DraftKings operates through a mobile app – Delaware, Mississippi and West Virginia joining Nevada in the business.

DraftKings currently has a license only to operate in New Jersey, but Avello told the Las Vegas Journal-Review that part of his new role will be establishing and watching over land-based sports books.

DraftKings told Gambling.com that Avello will serve as "a director in the rapidly growing sportsbook operations team. With more than three decades of experience in gaming, Johnny is widely respected throughout the sports book industry as an innovative, forward-thinking leader and an early proponent of mobile sports betting."

Avello told the Journal-Review he would remain in Las Vegas.

“I can’t get into where some of the places might be, but my job will be to oversee the lines and retail operations,” he told the Journal-Review. “By that, I mean the points of sale at the sports books.”

DraftKings’ was ordered by the Nevada Gaming Control Board to shutter its fantasy sports site in the state in 2015 after ruling that the game constituted gambling without a license. The company has not since applied for gambling licenses. The Avello hire could therefore signal that DraftKings will soon move to enter Nevada after a successful debut in New Jersey. Or Avello might simply oversee his duties remotely.

Avello, a Poughkeepsie, N.Y., native, came to Las Vegas in 1979, spending 15 years at Bally’s Las Vegas and also working the Sands Hotel and Las Vegas Hilton. An innovator who has worked to expand the way sports are bet, Avello gained notoriety for lines on the Oscars and Emmys for “entertainment purposes only,” because wagering on pre-determined events is illegal in Nevada.

“The whole national gaming scene is going to be bigger than everyone anticipated, and I just want to be a part of it,” Avello, 65, told the Las Vegas Journal-Review.

Draft Kings chief revenue officer and co-founder Matt Kalish said “Johnny is considered a legend in Las Vegas” in a statement provided to Gambling.com.

“He is very respected in the gaming industry and brings well over 30 years of experience, insights and ideas to DraftKings," Kalish continued. “We’re committed to building a world-class sports betting operation by putting together amazing talent with diverse experiences and backgrounds, and Johnny’s arrival brings us one step closer to that goal.”

DraftKings in July announced what operators of del Lago Resort & Casino in New York deemed a “strategic partnership” to provide on-site sports betting. The state has not yet legalized sports betting.

DraftKings needed 38 days to register a million bets, but just 14 more to reach two million in New Jersey. The company was the only mobile purveyor when in launched on Aug. 1 before being joined later by Sugar House and playMGM, 888, Caesars. FanDuel – another fantasy league provider – and William Hill.

New Jersey legalized sports betting on June 1.

According to a New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement report, total gaming revenue increased to $303.9 million this August as compared to the same month in 2017. More than $95 million was wagered in New Jersey sports books in August, with $21.7 million bet online. September figures have not been released.

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