DraftKings raids Strip sports books

DraftKings raids Strip sports books

October 03, 2018 3:09 AM


Rumors had floated through the Nevada sports wagering business for more than a week that a major bookmaker would soon leave his long-time Las Vegas post.

Monday, those rumors proved to be twice as true when John Avello, after 13 years running the Wynn Resorts race and sports book, announced he was leaving the company to join DraftKings, the Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) powerhouse that’s in process of transitioning to Nevada-style bookmaking.

On the same day, long-time Stratosphere lead bookie Ed Malinowski confirmed he would depart the rapidly expanding Golden Entertainment operation for a new job as well. Malinowski would only corroborate that he was leaving his lead role running Golden books at both Arizona Charlie’s and the Aquarius in Laughlin, in addition to the Stratosphere.

When asked if he was joining Avello at DraftKings, Malinowski, in a text message, would neither confirm nor deny information obtained by GamingToday.

Avello’s initial role at DraftKings includes oversight of retail sports book trading and risk management, according to the company. A DraftKings spokesperson said Avello would remain in Las Vegas as has former Caesars Entertainment sports book director Frank Kunovic. Kunovic left to join DraftKings in August.

Sources tell GamingToday and DraftKings’ statement appears to confirm that the DFS leader seeks to open a full-fledged sports trading operation in Southern Nevada. For those old school players who may not know, this is similar to a stock trading floor, although a little less hectic, in which traders monitor “in-play” wagering, posting odds and props as the game progresses. Such “in-play” or “in-game” wagering, as it’s sometimes called, is the current major growth area of sports betting.

Although trading operations are run by many of Europe’s leading bookmaking firms, such large-scale, full-fledged trading activity in Nevada is currently only operated by Don Best Sports and William Hill. William Hill provides this for sports books it operates. Don Best trading services are not bookmaking operations. As the company pointed out in a series of articles in GamingToday a year ago, it only provides trading services to licensed bookmakers in regulated markets, largely in Europe, Asia and Mexico, where American sports, especially the NBA, remain hugely popular.

Sources predict there will soon be an effort to recruit experienced traders from current employers as sports betting gradually takes hold nationally.

DraftKings appears to be taking a measured approach to entering the various new marketplaces, currently only operating a mobile app in New Jersey and announcing a deal with del Lago, an Upstate New York casino/resort. New York is one of many states expected to pass sports betting laws in 2019.

DraftKings leadership has repeatedly said they believe the sports betting marketplace nationally is enormous and they would be a major player as the various states roll it out.

Betting in Nevada won’t be quite the same without Avello and the extremely affable and capable Malinowski behind the counter. There’s already proof of that with word Wynn Las Vegas would no longer post a Kentucky Derby future book, one of the last fixed-odds future books anywhere.

Hopefully, some other property will.