Johnny Avello of DraftKings on Ontario Sports Betting Market & Grey Cup Wagering

Johnny Avello of DraftKings on Ontario Sports Betting Market & Grey Cup Wagering
By Mark Keast

Johnny Avello, the newly minted Sports Betting Hall of Famer and director of race & sports operations for DraftKings in the U.S., is starting to get really bullish about the potential of the Ontario sports betting market.

As of now, as most people know, the only legal sports betting platform in Ontario is the OLG’s PROLINE+, which launched four months ago. Everything else going on now is grey market. A line of private operators, some of the world’s big sports betting companies, like DraftKings, are currently applying with the province’s Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario and iGaming Ontario and hope to have their licenses in early 2022.

The launch of private operators in the Ontario market is likely to be delayed until after the 2022 Super Bowl in mid-February.

Avello, who got his start in the business in the 1970s, and has seen it all, now has a senior job with one of the world’s fastest-growing gambling brands. He said he thinks wagering on Ontario sports betting apps will be in behemothic New Jersey’s neighborhood. New Jersey’s sports betting industry became the first in the U.S. to take in more than $1 billion worth of bets in a single month, in September, and has now done it in three consecutive months.

How Big Could Ontario Sports Betting Be?

OntarioBets: What do you think the size and scope of the Ontario market will be once everyone is regulated and up and running?

Johnny Avello: We are excited about the potential opportunity for DraftKings Ontario Sportsbook to offer that sports betting experience throughout Ontario. But there’s still some steps to go. We’re working closely with the officials in Ontario to get legalized sports betting there.

Overall what I see is a place where the population is 15 million, probably 40% of the Canadian population, a big city in Toronto. New Jersey has nine to 10 million. And they are doing tremendous numbers. I don’t know why that couldn’t translate into Ontario. You have a lot of sports events up there that I think would be of interest to the Canadian market.

How Did Grey Cup do in U.S.?

OntarioBets: What did you see for the Grey Cup this year? Was there a lot of interest among U.S. bettors in the game?

Johnny Avello: There was. We put some propositions together surrounding it. We did in-game wagering on it. It did pretty well. I thought it would do well, also. Being in 18 states, like we are, I thought there would be some interest in it. And it was positioned in a spot (6 p.m.) where it didn’t affect any of the early NFL games, and the late games had already started. So it was in a position to do well.

People (in the U.S.) are familiar with some of the (U.S.-born) CFL players so that helps. But it’s a big event too, the Super Bowl for Canadian football. Any event that decides a championship (is always popular)

Everyone likes to bet on the final outcome championship games.

'Mobile is Imperative'

OntarioBets: How much will mobile betting impact sports betting growth in Ontario?

Johnny Avello: Mobile is the future of the business. If you want to do big numbers mobile is imperative. Mobile with remote signups, where you don’t have to go into a physical location to sign up. That deters betting, some people can’t get to a location. If you are doing in-game wagering, it’s quick. By the time you get off your seat in a brick-and-mortar location, the lines change.

There are many advantages to mobile betting. Plus you have the complete sportsbook in your pocket. We have so many different offerings, it’s hard to display all those on an LED board in a physical location.

Bills-Panthers Line Moving

OntarioBets: Where is betting action going for the Buffalo Bills for their game Sunday against Carolina?

Johnny Avello: The Bills could have won a few games of late that they lost. Certainly that game in the bad weather. They missed a few FGs. They lost that game to the Patriots, a key game. Then they played one of the better teams in the NFL, the Tampa Bay Bucs, and went to OT after being down quite a few points, had a chance to win that in regulation and didn’t get there. So they’ve fallen on some hard times.

This week they are playing a Panthers team that is missing key players (like A.J. Bouye, defensive back). The Bills opened at 9.5 point favorites, now it’s 11. Bills are seeing the early money there.



Mark Keast

Mark Keast has recently covered the sports betting industry in Canada for The Parleh, and is a long-time sportswriter and editor, most notably with the Toronto Sun.

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