Patrick Everson sits down with DraftKings director of sportsbook operations Johnny Avello, to discuss the inaugural Sports Betting National Championship in New Jersey this weekend.
Photo By – Covers
For decades, Johnny Avello has been a forward thinker in the sportsbook industry. DraftKings is just seven years old and has only been in the sportsbook business for a few months, but they’re already looking to come up with fresh ideas.
With Avello now working for DraftKings as director of sportsbook operations, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see the rollout of a unique contest that aims to draw sports bettors from around the country to New Jersey this weekend. Dubbed the Sports Betting National Championship, the contest takes place Friday through Sunday, and true to forward thinking, all wagering will be done via DraftKing’s mobile app.
“The company has been working on this for a little bit. This idea at this time, it feels right to have our first contest,” Avello told Covers. “We’re calling it a national championship, and it is. You can come from anywhere in the country to play.”
Of course, there is a cost involved. Entry is $10,000, with half of that serving as each contestant’s bankroll for the weekend. There’s a guaranteed minimum prize pool of $2.5 million, with the winner collecting $1 million, second place $350,000 and third place $250,000. The Top 25 get paid, with places 16-25 each earning $15,000.
Those payouts and the relatively small field, even if it hits the maximum 600 entrants – which would actually increase the purse, as the contest is based on 530 entrants – could make this contest a worthwhile investment. In addition, contestants keep whatever is remaining from their bankroll when the weekend is over, which could be significant for those who put together a good run.
“You get to keep what’s left, whether it’s $2,000 or $200,000,” Avello said, while elaborating on what he likes about the setup of this contest. “There are a couple things: first of all, the prize money is a huge amount to guarantee, and it’s all guaranteed, even if we don’t reach 530 contestants. So that should be enticing to anybody who wants to play the contest.
“But second, and the way I look at the contest, is if you’re someone who’s going to be betting five dimes on a weekend – a lot of people don’t do that, but many people do – then why not take a shot with this? Travel is the only obstacle. To me, it’s a no-brainer to get in.”
The format of the contest allows for entrants to bet on any event available on DraftKing’s mobile app on Friday and Saturday. The app will have a special section just for the contest, from which entrants must make all wagers. Then on Sunday, bettors can only make plays on the two NFL divisional playoff games.
Bets can be made anywhere in New Jersey, and only in New Jersey, since that’s the legal betting jurisdiction for the contest. On Sunday, DraftKings will have a special VIP site set up in Jersey City, where contestants can gather to finish out the weekend.
Avello said he’s most intrigued by how contestants will strategize over the three days. Bettors can take sides, totals, alternate pointspreads, proposition bets and more, though the limits on specific wagers will be the same for all contestants.
“I think parlays will be a big play in this tournament, because parlays are a way to accumulate a huge bankroll,” Avello said. “It’ll be challenging, because numbers and prices can move. You can make your Sunday NFL bets on Friday, but for some, the strategy could be to build your bankroll pretty well, so that you can unload on Sunday.
“I’m sure participants are going to play in different ways. That’s what makes the contest interesting, because there’s not necessarily a certain pattern you play to get there. It’s gonna be exciting.”
Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.
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