Ask A Bookmaker With Johnny Avello: Assessing The Super Bowl

DraftKings' Hall-of-Fame bookmaker answers questions about the sports betting industry
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Welcome to our weekly “Ask a Bookmaker” feature, which answers many of the common (and uncommon!) questions gamblers and enthusiasts have about how sportsbooks operate in the modern age of sports betting.

Respected bookmaker Johnny Avello has been involved in the betting industry since the 1970s and previously managed the Las Vegas sportsbooks at Bally’s and the Wynn. Now the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, Avello was recently inducted into the Sports Betting Hall of Fame.

Have a question you’d like to ask Avello? Send them to jbalan@bettercollective.com. Questions and responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.

For the modern online bookmaking operation, what is Super Bowl week like? With the amount of offerings you put up, I imagine it’s a dizzying experience.

Johnny Avello: Here’s what happens. After the conference championships, we put up the lines as soon as we know the teams, and then we put up our propositions last Sunday. We’ve added to that and we’ll continue to keep adding, but we’re at the point where we’ve got the content up and people are betting it. They’re betting the games strong and they’re betting the props strong.

For us, let’s get to the weekend and get the game on. The hard work is over. Now it’s up to the betting public to take over. Bet all the money you want, bet as little as you want, and peruse the whole menu. It’s exciting now, for us, since most of the work is done.

Has anything surprised you over the last week or so, related to Super Bowl betting or how things have moved?

JA: We’ve been bouncing back and forth between 4 and 4.5 in favor of the Rams. I’m not surprised they’re betting the Bengals on the moneyline, but I’m surprised we have more money on the Bengals on the spread. Usually, the favorite gets more money early and late, and I think the Rams will get late money over the weekend. But right now they like the Bengals in all facets — spread and moneyline.

Do you have any fond memories of the Super Bowl, where you guys did really well?

JA: Being in the business 37 years, I’ve had some really good Super Bowls and I’ve had a couple bad ones. And I’ve had some that could have been good that came down to the last play. In Super Bowl XLIX, with the Patriots and the Seahawks, I took a million-dollar bet from a guy. Seattle was going to go in and score at the end of the game, and the money shifted on us. Although I’m a big Giants fan, the helmet catch by David Tyree was another big shift for us.

There have been some where we could have made money that didn’t work out so well, and there were some where we had banner Super Bowl outcomes. But this is the deal: You put up the number, you book the game, and you can’t play. Nobody is asking me to suit up. That’s not happening. I’m a bookmaker. I’m booking the game, and whatever happens, happens.

On the other hand, do you have any particularly bad memories of the Super Bowl?

JA: I don’t think so. A bad memory for me is if something goes wrong with your system, or if somebody knocks out the electricity. That’s what causes a bad memory. As long as those kinds of things don’t happen and everything runs smoothly, it’s a good day, regardless of the outcome, as far as revenue is concerned.

Are you on alert for anything in the final few days leading up to the Super Bowl?

JA: There’s going to be some big bets coming in, and some guys might want to bet a few million dollars. We’ll be alerted if something like that is happening, but for the most part, the whole team is relaxed. Now there’s the big bets to come and the game will take place. Everybody is in a position where they need to be.

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