DraftKings Director: NC Early Handle “Significantly Exceeded” Expectations

Euphoric. This is what a 20-0 lead in a basketball game must feel like for a sportsbook.

North Carolina operators launched a dream debut on March 11 that will be hard to top in any subsequent two-week period.

Torrid Tar Heel State wagering, a Cinderella story for the ages with NC State, and the emergence of female superstar Caitlin Clark produce hoop-betting heaven.

“We don’t talk about revenue forecasts at DraftKings, but what I can say is the early handle in North Carolina significantly exceeded our expectations,” Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, told Gaming Today.

“We could not have asked for a better time to get up and running, just before the conference tournaments. And the people of North Carolina sure love their basketball.

“Without a doubt, that is the reason we have enjoyed such a great start. I can’t remember a team winning five games as NC State did to win the ACC Tournament, and now you have Duke, NC State, and North Carolina in the Big Dance.”

They hit the court this week in March Madness.

Are you ready?

More: March Madness Odds | Best March Madness Sportsbook Promos and Bonuses | How to Bet on March Madness Games, Futures and Props

North Carolina, Duke, and NC State Futures

Here are the latest futures bets for all three teams to advance through different levels of play at DraftKings.

These are important because a team doesn’t have to win it all to pay out.

To Reach Sweet 16

  • North Carolina, -220
  • Duke, -115
  • NC State, +500

To Reach Elite Eight

  • North Carolina, +110
  • Duke, +390
  • NC State, +1500

To Reach the Final Four

  • North Carolina, +260
  • Duke, +550
  • NC State, +5500

To Be Crowned Champion

  • North Carolina, +1300
  • Duke, +3500
  • NC State, +18000

NC State Helped Sportsbooks

The Wolfpack are the darlings of the Big Dance. On Saturday, their 84-76 stomping of top-seeded North Carolina completed a miracle whirl. That included a comeback from six points down in the final minute at +800 in-game against Virginia. A buzzer-beating bank shot produced the overtime NC State dominated.

The tailwind continued through the tournament and did the books a championship game favor.

“The final game with NC State and North Carolina was great for us,” Avello noted. “We needed NC State (at +9.5) because the bettors were pounding North Carolina all the way across the board.

“That was our biggest handle of the entire day (out of 24 games). It will be interesting to see what happens now. NC State must regroup (it plays Texas Tech on Thursday night), and North Carolina remains popular with the bettors. They get pounded to reach the Final Four and the championship. They also get played heavily every game.”

More: North Carolina Sports Betting | Best North Carolina Sportsbook Promos

March Madness Betting Pattern: Hot Now, Heavy Later

Avello notices different March Madness betting waves.

“The way this has generally worked over the years is you have a large volume of smaller bets at the start,” he said. “The players not only like to bet all the games, but which team will get to 10 points first, 15 points, etc.

“The volume on these games will come from a lot of people. On Selection Sunday, we put all the games up, with spreads, within 45 minutes of announcing the matchups. We often got a game up practically as soon as they announced it.

“Some players jumped right in. We took a good flurry of bets for two dimes ($2,000) and five dimes ($5,000) from players who thought they were getting the best of the line. The big players won’t be betting so much when the games start.

“They come in the day of the bigger games. The way it seems to go after that is that as the games become less, the bets get bigger.”

NCAAB Postseason Marks Special Betting Considerations

The book has offered several special postseason betting options. One of the most popular is buzzer-beaters.

Any buzzer-beater in the play-in games was +1800. A buzzer-beater in the first round on Thursday and Friday is +300. And to play one any time in the tournament is a reasonable -110.

“You always figure there is going to be at least one,” Avello laughed.

But it must be a buzzer-beater to win the game, not merely force OT as Michael O’Connell’s miracle bank shot did for NC State against Virginia.

Caitlin Clark Lights up the Books

Just two hours from Charlotte, in Columbia, SC, sits the nation’s No. 1 ranked women’s team. South Carolina, the nation’s only unbeaten team at 32-0, launches its championship bid on Friday.

At one point, South Carolina may meet second-ranked Iowa, which sports a Hollywood movie angle in Caitlin Clark.

The 6-foot Iowa guard elevates the appeal of women’s college basketball and is the complete package: scoring machine, playmaker, and rebounder.

She’s a must-see.

Among other accomplishments this year, Clark broke the Division I record for total points, surpassing the 3,767 of Pistol Pete Maravich.

Clark averaged 31.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 8.9 assists. She’s become the face of women’s college hoops and also becoming well-known across social media channels, appearing in commercials with Jake from State Farm, among other opportunities.

The stats for Clark translate into another world of figures in the books.

“The numbers for women’s basketball are astounding this year compared to last year,” Avello said. “They are actually 12 times more. There are many reasons for that. You have more games on national TV and streaming networks, and you have Caitlin Clark, who everybody wants to see play.

“It seems like she is always going after some record, whether that’s the women’s record, the overall record, the 3-point record, etc. She has a great story, making the networks want to show the game. When the networks show the game, the bettors now want to play it.”

Avello said although there’s no comparison between men’s and women’s betting handle, the women’s circuit has a higher percentage of in-game betting compared to the original line. Gamblers apparently find a comfortable flow and let it rip.

“I am impressed with the women’s game; it is fun to watch,” Avello observed. “The women are good shooters now and have always been sound fundamentally. I always loved their games and have been putting them up for a long time, but I had no idea it would ever reach this level.”

Avello said many props connected with men’s college hoops are carried over into the women’s game. He believes the women’s circuit has avoided direct competition with a major male-circuit matchup.

We may see a showdown between South Carolina and Clark, which is the big story. Game on, Carolinians.


About the Author
Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo is an award-winning writer and broadcaster, who has covered the sports industry since the 1970s. He won the Sam Taub Award for Excellence in Boxing Broadcasting by the Boxing Writers Association of America in 1997, and is in the New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame. Bontempo has broadcast major fights all over the world. The advent of legalized sports wagering shifted his focus to this exciting new industry in 2018.

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