How busy was Championship Sunday for online sportsbooks?
Pennsylvania market leader FanDuel experienced technical difficulties that drew the ire of users trying to log on during the NFC Championship game.
Jason Scott, VP of trading at BetMGM, said:
“The Buccaneers upsetting the Packers was the best result BetMGM has had on a single event in 12 months. The public won some money back on the Chiefs but Sunday was still a very profitable day.”
At DraftKings, Championship Sunday was big. The AFC Championship game (Buffalo Bills vs. Kansas Chiefs) and the NFC Championship game (Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Green Bay Packers) rank No. 1 and No. 2 respectively for the biggest handle ever for a playoff game at DraftKings. According to Johnny Avello, head of sportsbook and gaming operations at DraftKings:
“It was really big. It was probably our biggest day ever.”
“It’s going to continue to happen as we expand.”
DraftKings launched in Pennsylvania in the fall of 2019 and quickly established itself as the No. 2 operator in terms of handle and revenue (although in December, Barstool led for revenue). Last week, DraftKings arrived in two new states, Michigan and Virginia. We were curious what the popular sportsbook expects for Super Bowl betting this year.
The following interview with Avello has been edited for length and clarity.
For the 2020 Super Bowl, bettors in legalized markets across the country wagered nearly $270 million. It marked the first Super Bowl that gamblers in Pennsylvania could wager online. Pennsylvania posted Super Bowl handle of $30.7 million in 2020, with $24 million being placed online.
What is Avello’s prediction for Super Bowl LV handle?
He couldn’t offer a number, but he did say it would be record-breaking:
“There is no doubt in my mind this Super Bowl will be the biggest of all time, especially since we added two new states.”
For the first game of the NFL season, DraftKings ran a “no brainer” promo that had the Chiefs +101 against the Houston Texans. On Championship Sunday, there were 50% boosts on markets such as “first team to score” and “anytime touchdown scorer.” On Monday, DraftKings posted an “Early Bird Big Game Profit Boost” that gives a 55% boost on any Super Bowl LV bet.
Where do DraftKings’ promos come from, and why are they such a big part of the marketing plan?
“Our promo team led by Lexi Janson is great. They do a great job coming up with different things you haven’t seen in the market before. It’s a big deal for us because we want to separate ourselves from other operators in various ways. You want to have the best app, the best customer service and best promos, too. We try to be the best at everything we do. That team has really outdone themselves over the past year.”
Have users already seen the best promos?
“The team is so innovative and hardworking. I don’t think you’ve seen their best.”
Judging from Twitter, my experience and group chats I was in on Sunday, it seemed that there was a decent amount of live betting going on. Can you comment on the volume on live betting? Have you seen an increase in live betting from week to week?
“There is no question that it’s grown throughout the year, and it will continue to grow. Live wagering used to be the game and the total, and now there is so much more in there. As we continue to come up with new offerings, it will continuously grow.”
DraftKings added a section in the app with information about player props. There are hundreds of markets for the Super Bowl, and player props are very popular. How have you seen this market grow?
“If you look at Super Bowl props going back a year or two ago, you would see certain ones only for the Super Bowl. You may also see them on Championship Sunday but not at the magnitude of the Super Bowl. What we have done at DraftKings this year is we’ve put up a Super Bowl menu for every game. We’ve added new props and will continue to add some. Our players have become comfortable with props by seeing them from week to week.”
You have been a bookmaker throughout Brady’s career; do bettors back or fade him?
“When he was with the Patriots, there was a love/hate between him and some of the bettors. I spoke to some people over the years who made a sportsbook living betting on the Patriots. There are always a bunch out there who root for the underdog.
“This year, they may bet against him because they feel he lost a little edge or is going against a better team. I think moving to Tampa Bay took some of the ‘bet against Brady’ away. He did a remarkable job down there. Who knows if they would have made it without him? He lived up to expectations, and when he announced he was going to Tampa, we took a ton of money on the Bucs to win the Super Bowl. People have continued to bet the Buccaneers to win the Super Bowl throughout the season.”
Bucs and Chiefs biggest liabilities for the book
Since Brady signed with the Bucs in the offseason, the Buccaneers are the most-bet team at DraftKings to win the Super Bowl. They are DraftKings’ biggest Super Bowl liability.
Their second-biggest liability is the Kanas City Chiefs.
So, who is DraftKings rooting for on Super Bowl Sunday?
“You let that go. When you have a future book and you are in that spot, you let it go. It will play out however it plays out, and you book the game normally.”
Adrenaline still flows for veteran bookmaker
It’s your 36th Super Bowl as a bookmaker. What gets you excited for the game?
“There is a lot of hard work involved by the staff. As the week goes on, we will add new props; then the game starts and there is in-game wagering. What has always gotten me excited is the booking part of it. We have multiple decisions on the game, and whether you win or lose them, that’s when the adrenaline flows. The biggest decision will be on the game itself, but there will be other significant decisions on all the offerings we have up. Bookmakers get excited about bookmaking.”
When will you see the majority of money come in?
“Starting Saturday night through kickoff. The last 18 hours is when you’ll see the majority of the money come in.”
Lead image credit: AP Photo/Charles Krupa