Sportsbooks across the nation have created new ways to stay engaged with sports gambling. The Draftkings Sportsbook at Wild Rose Casino has offered Belarus soccer and table tennis in the last few weeks.  JEFFERSON HERALD FILE PHOTO

GAMBLING ON A SPORTS-LESS FUTURE

Sportsbook find unique ways to keep bettors engaged
“No one prepares for (this) happening. That’ll be a good thing next time around, as innovative as the company is, we were able to pivot quickly.” - Draftkings director of race and sportsbook, Johnny Avello

By BRANDON HURLEY

Sports Editor
sports@beeherald.com

@BrandonJHurley

Value is one of the most important aspects of sports gambling.
But, in a world with limited live action options, sportsbooks across the country and staying ahead of the curve, offering unique and wild sports for even the most casual of gamblers is where bookmakers thrive. Creativity is essential in all walks of life, and this particular industry is no stranger. Sports bettors all over the world have suddenly become table tennis experts while locking their eyeballs to Belarus soccer.
It surely is a strange time.
While COVID-19 has devastatingly put a halt to most major sports action, degenerates have also felt the earth-shattering onslaught of punches inflicted by the dangerous virus.
Iowa was less than a year into legalized sports betting when the Coronavirus shuttered nearly everything on earth. No NBA, March Madness, MLB or NHL to lay money on. No buzzer-beaters to cover the over, no towering home runs, securing the long-odds money line bet. What about the underdog, nobody who beats out the field to win the Masters and complete an insane parlay? Nope and nope.
It’s been eerily quiet for casinos across the country, including Wild Rose Casino in Jefferson and their relatively new Draftkings Sportsbook. The facility complete with state-of-the-art line tickers and a wall of TVs opened in October, only to watch a world-wide pandemic strike a few months later, launching a drought of epic proportions.
But, like any great athlete or business model, Draftkings director of race and sportsbook, Johnny Avello has helped his colleagues and loyal bettors stay connected with a bevy of interesting and unique options.
“No one prepares for (this) happening,” he said. “That’ll be a good thing next time around, as innovative as the company is, we were able to pivot quickly.”
They’ve rolled out betting lines on odd sports such as Russian table tennis and Belarusian soccer. Draftkings has also instituted “free pools” for non-sports related interests, including the “Tiger King” documentary and the Desperate Housewives TV show.
“We are chugging along and are doing well,” Avello said. “We are happy with where we are right now.”
Table tennis may seem like a difficult activity to handicap, and though Avello states otherwise, it does get a little tricky. It’s a fast-paced one-on-one game, usually played by casual counterparts. Draftkings has compiled a specific team of oddsmakers who are more familiar with the sport than others, moving forward from there. The beauty - and danger - of gambling is how easily one can turn something mundane and random into a contest with money on the line. It really hasn’t been too difficult pulling the degenerate crowds to table tennis, Avello said.
“As a bookmaker, you can pretty much book anything,” he said. “ You just need a little bit of time to research.”
Most table tennis gambling is on each point, a “futures” bet if you will. A bettor places money on who they believe will win the next point. Bettors can also place money on how many points they believe the match will last or how many points a particular athlete will win by.
Table tennis is an interesting and captivating sport to gamble on, Avello said.
“It’s fast, and you are putting up lines on the next point, some times you are putting up two points ahead,” he said. “People that play it are pretty good at handicapping it, some people have been doing pretty well with (table tennis).”
Belarusian soccer has been another interesting sport to bet. The Belarus Premiere League plays games typically during the middle of an American day, which has been quite conducive, Avello said. Plus, a majority of bettors are already familiar with soccer, making it a likely candidate for sports starved degenerates. Sportsbooks place bets on goal lines, ties and propositions, among others.
Some states have added political betting to its variety of options, as well, but Iowa is not one of those jurisdictions that allows such an activity. Avello said election bets must first be approved by individual state legislation on a state-by-state basis.
“(We’ll) address a state and whether we want to do elections and then we explain why we want to do it,” Avello said. “We outline (the plan) and go from there. Sometimes you get approval quickly. The responses vary, It’s about addressing a certain market.”
Naturally, many legislators aren’t on board with election betting. Avello said it’s been a bit of a “touchy subject,” for the main fact that it could incentivize a rigged election or encourage someone to alter the results. Either way, Avello said Draftkings is armed and ready if and when election betting is approved.  
The Coronavirus outbreak has affected almost every aspect of every day life, and as Avello well knows, it’s provided quite the hit to the sports world. Sports gambling may never be the same, he said.
“It’s certainly going to affect the core sports,” Avello said. “We don’t know when they are going to come back. There’s talk about baseball playing all the sports in Arizona. It’ll create new markets and it’ll be strange. There won’t be a lot of homefield advantage.
Avello added, “Is the NBA going to continue the playoff season? There’s no word on the NHL and what they are going to do. Then there’s the whole football situation, we don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Futures remain some of the most popular bets across sports. Money is being laid on win totals and championship teams in the MLB as well as in the NFL and college football. The NFL Draft began Thursday, April 23 and with it were a bevy of proposition and futures bets, such as which team would draft a certain player and if said player would last before or after a certain number of pick. Position-by-position bets were also taken, specifically who would be the second quarterback taken among a list of candidates, and so on.
As Avello would say, there’s still plenty of action, even as the world remains at a standstill.

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