DraftKings Director Of Ops Talks Super Bowl Betting, Growing In PA & Breaking The Book

Posted on January 23, 2020

One of the names synonymous with daily fantasy sports expanded its kingdom when it started offering sports betting. DraftKings Sportsbook was one of the late-to-the-Pennsylvania-party players when it launched in early November but it’s already making an impact.

DraftKings’ $36 million December handle doubled the amount from the previous month. It helped contribute to a record-breaking December for PA sports betting when the state took $343 million in wagers. DraftKings accepted the second-most wagers in PA. It is still a distant second behind FanDuel Sportsbook but a quick ascension up the ranks of a field that now consists of eight online options is notable.

With the 2020 Super Bowl matchup set, college basketball ramping up and DraftKings settling in to Pennsylvania, sportsbook director of operations Johnny Avello took some time to talk to PlayPennsylvania.

Break the Book promotion

Want to “break” DraftKings? Now until Jan. 26, the sportsbook is running an exclusive Pennsylvania promotion that gives everyone who wagers in the state at least 5% back in free credits.

How to play DraftKings Break the Book promo:

  • Be a registered user or create a new account at DraftKings
  • You must be physically located in PA when placing wagers
  • Place bets. All bets with minimum odds of -300 or greater count towards the promo
  • DraftKings is starting at a guaranteed 5% back in free bets. It can grow to a 10% percent based on the state’s total.

As of Jan. 22, $7,830,000 million had been bet. Break the Book consists of five tiers:

  • $12 million: 6% back in free bets
  • $14 million: 7% back in free bets
  • $16 million: 8% back in free bets
  • 18 million: 9% back in free bets
  • $20 million: 10% back in free bets

Following are excerpts from a Q&A with Avello.

Building a kingdom in Pennsylvania

PlayPennsylvania: What do you attribute your growth to? How much of it had to do with name recognition from your fantasy product?

Avello: If you try our digital product you’ll find it’s superior to everything else. It’s easy to navigate, sign up and has great content. I think that’s the reason. We weren’t first to market. People have explored and are now finding that ours is one of the more viable options.

The brand recognition from fantasy certainly helped. The fantasy product is alive and well. Sports betting hasn’t hurt it; it’s enhanced it. People know of us and as we open up in various markets we have a built-in base already.

PlayPennsylvania: DraftKings is available in New Jersey, West Virginia, Indiana, and New Hampshire. What’s been different in the PA market?

Avello: I don’t think much. It’s a good market. It’s just taken a little bit of time to get going. Things look very positive as far as handle is concerned. We are trying some new things. The Break the Book promotion is like no other, giving back 5%, 10% in bets is unheard of in the industry. We are exploring and still feeling out the market and getting people to try our product. Once you try our product you are sold.

Most popular plays vary

PlayPennsylvania: Which NFL teams saw the most action?

Avello: It’s an interesting question. We are in different jurisdictions. In New Jersey, we’ve seen the Eagles, Giants and Jets are the more popular teams. Now that PA has opened up, some of that business doesn’t have to come across the border anymore.

Of course we see Pittsburgh and Philadelphia action. The state stretches pretty far and you get some Ohio residents who are Browns fans. For betting purposes, we’re going to be heavy on the teams that reside in the states that we are doing business.

Super Bowl betting at DraftKings

PlayPennsylvania: Is the lead up to the Super Bowl like Christmas for a sportsbook?

Avello: The Super Bowl has always been in a big deal in the country. It’s Christmas for us in that we are happy to offer the product that we have to our customers. But it’s also Christmas for everybody that has something to do with the game whether it’s restaurants, casinos, and grocery stores with people buying snacks.

PlayPennsylvania: What’s your must-have Super Bowl snack?

Avello: Chicken wings extra crispy with blue cheese and celery sticks.

PlayPennsylvania: Mine too…with extra sauce on the side. It’s still a week and a half away but each day, there are more prop bets being added for the Super Bowl.

Avello: For the Super Bowl, they aren’t going to bet everything but they want to see everything. When you are putting up the propositions you can’t get them all up in one day because there is a lot of work to be done – formulating the odds takes time. So we put them up in bunches. Customers check back every day for new content that might be out there and then you’ll see some crazy ones out there.

PlayPennsylvania: From the conference championship games to the Super Bowl, how much of an increase in betting will you see?

Avello: When you first put the Super Bowl line up, which we did at the end of the third quarter of the San Francisco game, you get a flurry of action. Some people want to bet it early because they think they get a better number. Then on Monday you get a little bit of action then it settles down. You get dribs and drabs. It builds over two weeks. I would say only in the buildup, you only take 10-12 percent of the overall action.

The last weekend is when everyone is more interested and wants to get their bet in. There are so much other betting opportunities before the Super Bowl – college basketball, pro basketball, hockey play every night. Some people don’t want  to make their Super Bowl bets that far in advance. Eighty to eight five percent of all Super Bowl wagers will come in the two or three days before the game.

The ball changes, the betting keeps going

PlayPennsylvania: Is there a void to fill after the Super Bowl?

Avello: We just change the shape of the ball. College basketball, over the course of three weeks, handles more money than the Super Bowl and that’s the next big event. Following that, there are big golf majors, tennis tournaments, NBA and hockey playoffs. It just keeps going.

The only slow period, and it really isn’t that slow, is when we get to July. In July you can bet anything you want as long as it’s baseball (laughing). There is also a soccer tournament and something else to go along with baseball in the summer though. Before you know it, football is back again.

Bachelor DFS Scandal

PlayPennsylvania: On Jan. 7, former Bachelor contestant Jade Roper Tolbert won he Millionare Maker contest. She was accused of cheating and DraftKings said they are investigating. Any updates?

Avello: Any time we have million-dollar winners in fantasy, that whole thing is looked at before the money is paid out. It is not unusual that DraftKings is doing its due diligence on the winners of the contest.

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Katie Kohler Avatar
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Katie Kohler

Katie Kohler is a Philadelphia-area based award-winning journalist. She covers the Pennsylvania gambling industry with an emphasis on sports betting, online casino/poker and the lottery.

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