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Veteran bookmaker Johnny Avello leaves Wynn Las Vegas for DraftKings

Updated October 3, 2018 - 5:41 pm

Daily fantasy sports behemoth DraftKings is essentially putting together a fantasy team of former Las Vegas sports book directors, and Johnny Avello was one of its top picks.

Avello was the Wynn Las Vegas sports book director for 13 years before leaving Monday to join DraftKings, which launched the first mobile sports betting app in New Jersey in August.

“I can’t say enough about my former employer, the Wynn. It’s an amazing property and has amazing people. It was a wonderful organization to work for,” Avello said. “But the whole national gaming scene is going to be bigger than everyone anticipated, and I just want to be a part of it.”

Avello was hired to help launch and oversee DraftKings’ land-based sports books.

“I can’t get into where some of the places might be, but my job will be to oversee the lines and retail operations,” he said. “By that, I mean the points of sale at the sports books.”

DraftKings doesn’t have a gaming license in Nevada, but that could change now that it is offering traditional sports betting. The company declined to apply for a license in October 2015 when the Nevada Gaming Control Board concluded daily fantasy sports constitute gambling under state law.

“I can tell you I’m going to be based in Nevada,” Avello said. “I’ll run the operation from the Las Vegas area.”

Avello, 65, joins a management team that also features Frank Kunovic, former Caesars Entertainment Corp. sports book director, who was hired in August as DraftKings’ director of retail sports book operations.

Former Stratosphere sports book director Ed Malinowski also is expected to join DraftKings.

A native of Poughkeepsie, New York, Avello has worked in the gaming industry in Las Vegas since 1979. Before opening the Wynn sports book in 2005, he spent 15 years at Bally’s and also worked for the sports books at the Sands and Las Vegas Hilton.

While Las Vegas books still can’t take bets on the Academy Awards, the affable Avello has long set odds — for entertainment purposes only — on the Oscars and similar events.

Avello long has been the first bookmaker to post the opening odds on college football, at 3 p.m. each Sunday.

“Johnny is considered a legend in Las Vegas,” Matt Kalish, DraftKings’ chief revenue officer and co-founder, said in a statement. “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.”

More betting: Follow all of our sports betting coverage online at reviewjournal.com/betting and @RJ_Sports on Twitter.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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