Q&A: DraftKings’ Johnny Avello on the Jets, Giants sports betting outlook and future of the industry

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NFL winners and losers week two of nfl preseason
New York Jets’ Jeremy Ruckert celebrates a touchdown with teammate Calvin Jackson during the second half of a preseason NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, in Philadelphia.
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The sports betting industry has changed quite a bit from when Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations at DraftKings, started to where things are now. From the growth of the industry to the explosion of mobile gaming, Avello has seen the changes and is excited to see what’s next. 

Avello has spent a good portion of his life in the sports betting industry going from a job in Las Vegas dealing dice in 1979 to a position as a ticket taker at the Las Vegas Hilton. He would become a Bally’s oddsmaker and eventually, in 1995 he was given the role as director of race & sports operations. 

He took the same position with Wynn Las Vegas in 2005 before joining DraftKings in 2018, where he’s been ever since. Last year, Avello was inducted into the Sports Betting Hall of Fame. 

While New York’s online sports betting numbers took a dip in July, they still set industry records for the month and are expected to go back up with the NFL season right around the corner. Avello sat down with amNewYork recently to discuss where oddsmakers see the New York Jets and Giants, how the lines are made and what is next for sports betting. 

(Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

amNewYork: How are the Jets and the Giants being viewed by the oddsmakers going into the season? 

Johnny Avello: The Jets are actually taking more money than the Giants. First of all, I don’t believe the Jets are going to win the AFC East, No. 1 and I think a seven-win season would be a success. For the Giants, it’s possible for them to go a little further. We have them to make the playoffs, we have them -280. For the Jets to make the playoffs the line is -1100. Big difference between the two. 

A lot of that has to do with the division itself. The Jets have three teams ahead of them in that division, and one being a Super Bowl Favorite, the Bills. Whereas the Giants Division is a little more open. It wouldn’t be a shock if the Giants won the division, so that’s the reason why they’re a little bit less of a price. When I look at both teams, the Jets very difficult schedule to start the season. … We have them 130 to 1 to win the Super Bowl. (28 to 1) to win the AFC East. What is getting bet with the Jets is the over/under season wins. Five and a half wins over -160 after opening up -110 and I think that’s a pretty good bet. 

Even though their schedule is tough I think the Jets will improve as this season goes on and I could see six wins, even seven by them.

amNY: When it comes to the odds that are out there, how do you make the lines? What goes into that?

JA: At DraftKings, we consider ourselves the market maker and what a market maker is, that’s a place that goes up the line first. And that’s kind of important to us. We like to get it up first and take pride in getting it up first. Betters bet it. Move the line to maybe where based on the bets that are coming in. The way it’s done, we have a lot of computer input now and a lot of different analytics goes into making a line. Each team has what you would call a power rating and a rating is based on offensive production, defense. Some intangibles as far as coaching and revenge factors. Things of that nature. There’s a lot that goes into that rating. 

For instance, a rating could be the Bills — and this is to start off the season — the Bills might be a 95 out of 100. Whereas the Patriots might be at 90 out of 100 and so that’s a five-point difference. Then we throw the home field advantage in there, which could be anywhere from one to four depending on how strong the team plays when they are at their home site. So if that was the Bills you know you take on four now you’re at nine points if they play the Patriots at home. 

That’s just the starting point. We have to make adjustments based on any injuries in the game and any other factors that could influence that line.

amNY: How have you seen the sports betting industry change during the course of your career?

JA: It’s changed a lot and I think one of the major factors for why it’s changed and how it’s changed is the amount of employees that we have. We have 50-plus traders. Traders are the guys that make the line and monitor lines, and you could only put up that kind of content when you have that type of staff. I think that’s the biggest change is the content. So much to wager on for the consumer and we have to monitor all those things too. It’s quite a task on a daily basis. 

amNY: Where do you see the industry headed, especially with the growth of mobile sports betting? 

JA: Well a couple of things have taken off lately over the last three years or so. One is, in-game wagering. There’s a lot of people that like to bet on the game after it starts. That’s grown exponentially over the past three to four years for us. Another thing that’s grown is we’ve introduced same-game parlays, where you can make multiple bets within one game parlay. You can bet the team to win, the team to score so many points. Like a Saquan Barkley will rush for 80 yards, you can bet over/under, you can bet the quarterback (Daniel) Jones to throw for over 240 yards. That’s a same game parlay and we’ve had those. That’s growing, first of all, that’s a bigger part of our business now.

I’ve seen some picks that hit where guys have bet $5 and cashed out $4,000. I’ve seen guys spend $20 and cashed out $60,000, so there’s been some real growth in that part of the business.