DraftKings’ Johnny Avello Faces Hard Questions On Betting Limits At Bet Bash 2

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From left: ESPN’s David Purdum (moderator), Circa’s Matt Metcalf, DraftKings’ Johnny Avello, pro bettors Alan Boston and Chris Bruno

LAS VEGAS — Johnny Avello, Director of Race & Sportsbook Operations at DraftKings, found himself in front of a tough crowd at The D Casino & Hotel here Sunday morning. Sitting on a panel titled “Ethics in Sports Betting” at Bet Bash 2, Avello had to deal with the topic of unreasonable betting limits often imposed on DraftKings customers.

The room was filled with bettors – professionals, semi-pros, and even just avid recreational players who take the craft seriously. Some of these folks have seen their bets at DraftKings – and to be fair, on other sports betting apps as well – limited to literal pennies.

Rather than the old school bookmaking model of taking a bet and moving a line, Avello said, “With DraftKings we try to hold the price so that a lot of people get it. Some people get a really low amount, and some guys get a higher amount. I don’t know the right way to do it yet. It’s something we’re working on, we’ll figure it out. It’s just that we disappoint some people and I understand.

“I sympathize with you, and it’s not correct,” Avello told the audience, “but would you rather get a $100 bet or nothing at all.”

Pro betting veteran Alan Boston, who sat on the panel with Avello, rolled his eyes. “Nothing,” Boston said. “I’d rather get nothing than be insulted with you giving me $27 instead of $10,000. Give me a break.”

“I understand,” Avello said, as some in the audience applauded Boston’s response.

Not Just Pros Getting Limited

A member of the audience named Jim – a salesman who takes his sports betting seriously but does not consider himself “sharp” – has had his betting limits at DraftKings reduced drastically.

“It’s not even $50 or $100. I’ve got a photo on my phone. It’s a dollar,” Jim told the panel. “I’m effectively banned. I’m not a math genius. I’ve gotten to this point through hard work. I do my homework, and my reward for that is I’m basically banned.”

“I work hard to try to help this,” Avello responded. “Hey, I’m one guy in a big company, and we have a lot to learn. Hopefully, things will get better over time. And I’m sorry for some of the discomfort you have to go through.”

After the panel, Jim told Gaming Today he was welcomed with open arms when he deposited over $20,000 into his DraftKings account. In fact, he got the VIP treatment, even offered tickets to sporting events from a customer service rep. As he started winning, he heard less and less from her, and his limits continued to plummet. He tried making a $500 bet on the Buffalo Bills to be the highest-scoring team in the NFL Playoffs, but all he could get down was $1.41.

Legislation, Regulations, And Limits

State’s sports betting laws are partly to blame for all this, opined Matt Metcalf, Director of Circa Sports, a Las Vegas book known to give all players, recreational and sharps alike, fair limits. The legislative framework is inhibiting competition, keeping operators like Circa out of some markets.

“The problem, I think, is they’re writing a lot of these laws, and they’re creating situations where the big companies have an advantage and are the only ones allowed in these markets,” Metcalf said. “Until they experience some competition from people who want to do things a little differently and it’s an even playing field, you’re forced to bet here. In the past, you would speak with your money. If you don’t like DraftKings, you go to the book that takes your $300 bet.”

Eventually, though, regulators are going to open their eyes to what many in the industry see as unfair practices, Metcalf said later.

“The further the spread becomes between the smallest bet given and the biggest bet given, the more predatory the industry is going to look on the whole,” he said, “and I think at some point the regulators are going to take a look at this and say, ‘Okay, Jim Smith can bet $1.17 and Mattress Mack can bet $10 million. What’s going on here? Why is that?”

About the Author
Marcus DiNitto

Marcus DiNitto

Sr. News Editor
Marcus DiNitto is Senior News Editor for Gaming Today. He has been managing editor at national sports websites SportsBusiness Daily, Sporting News, and The Linemakers, as well as with licensed sportsbook operator USA Sports Gaming. Marcus graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and earned his MBA from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.

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