Ask A Bookmaker With Johnny Avello: Looking Ahead To 2022 And Back At 2021

DraftKings' Hall-of-Fame bookmaker answers questions about the sports betting industry
Ask a Bookmaker

Welcome to our weekly “Ask a Bookmaker” feature, which will answer 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 [email protected]. Questions and responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Now that we’re into 2022, is there anything you’re particularly looking forward to as a bookmaker this year?

Johnny Avello: It’s an extremely busy time of year for the core sports, and we’re dealing with some COVID issues again in the NFL a little bit, but mostly college football and basketball. I’m hoping, at some point during this year, that we don’t have to deal with COVID as much. I’m trying to be optimistic, but I know this first month is going to be a trying time for the traders and our staff of oddsmakers. But we’ve been through it before and we know how to handle it, for the most part.

For the new year, we’re going to be in some new jurisdictions and have some new offerings. Last year, we were doing some cornhole, college lacrosse, and college hockey. This year, who knows? We’re looking at adding some pickleball and we’re always looking at new sports and new ways to bet stuff. It’s a year to continue to strive to be better.

One thing I’d like to see moving forward is that the team in the Las Vegas office has spent some time together in 2021, but I’d like to get the point where that gets more regular. I think there’s a lot to be said for working together in an office. You can bounce ideas off one another. Zoom works great, but there’s nothing like the team being all together.

Looking back at 2021, was there a particular bright spot?

JA: It was a good year overall, but we learned a lot. We continue to learn, even besides COVID issues and all that.

When you talk about things you’ve learned, does anything jump out as particularly important?

JA: We were in more jurisdictions, so we knew we needed to grow content, and content we have grown. We have so many offerings out there for people to bet. So by doing that, there are certain things they look for and certain things they like to wager on. First touchdown scorer, whether there will be a score in the last two minutes of the game — all those kinds of things. We’ve learned that the more content out there is not a waste. People enjoy it and find their niche.

In those niche areas, did anything surprise you in 2021? Did anything blow up in popularity that you didn’t expect?

JA: Same-game parlays really took off. People really like that, and at first, I wasn’t sure. We’ve had same-game parlay kind of stuff around for years, but not to this extent — not to where you can put together a 10-leg parlay on one or two games. I was surprised at the handle on that particular proposition.

There was a time when you couldn’t bet proposition parlays because of correlation stuff — if this team covers the spread, there’s a good chance the game will go over, for example. But we’ve made all those adjustments to fit within the bookmaker’s mold.

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