Las Vegas ‘legend’ Avello swaps Wynn for DraftKings

2 October 2018

DraftKings has lured North American sportsbook veteran Johnny Avello from Wynn Resorts in the latest high-profile addition to its betting management team in Las Vegas.

An early proponent of mobile sports betting in the North American market, Avello will be based in DraftKings’ new Nevada office. He began his tenure as director of sportsbook operations yesterday (Monday).

The company said Avello’s initial role at DraftKings will include oversight of retail sportsbook trading and risk management.

The move comes just two months after DraftKings accepted its first ever bets in the US market having previously been concerned only with the daily fantasy sports market.

DraftKings sees the appointment as a real coup, and comes soon after the company brought in new head of sportsbook (digital) Jamie Shea from IGT and Frank Kunovic, the new director of retail sportsbook operations, from Caesars. Some news websites are also reporting that Ed Malinowski, sports and racebook executive at Golden Entertainment, has also signed up to join the company’s leadership team.

Avello had been executive director of Wynn Las Vegas Sportsbook for more than a decade, having previously worked at Las Vegas Sands and Bally’s.

DraftKings co-founder Matt Kalish said: “Johnny is considered a legend in Las Vegas. He is very respected in the gaming industry and brings well over 30 years of experience, insights and ideas to DraftKings.

“We’re committed to building a world-class sports betting operation by putting together amazing talent with diverse experiences and backgrounds, and Johnny’s arrival brings us one step closer to that goal.”

While DraftKings is busy recruiting, one departure has gone rather more under the radar. Former head of sportsbook Sean Hurley has left the company after just eight months. The former head of commercial at Amelco became DraftKings’ head of sportsbook in February – three months before the repeal of PASPA. He moved to head of commercial growth in August before leaving the company entirely in September. 

Head of sportsbook (digital) Shea recently told iGamingBusiness.com that DraftKings “exceeded expectations” during its first month of online betting in New Jersey in August as it made almost $3m (£2.3m/€2.6m) in revenue.

“We are pleased with the excitement shown by New Jersey sports fans during DraftKings Sportsbook’s first month in the state,” Shea said.