The opening week of sports betting in Arizona saw meteoric demand from bettors in the state, exceeding the expectations of industry veterans, such as DraftKings Director of Race & Sportsbook Operations Johnny Avello.
Avello told BetArizona.com in a phone interview Friday that the state’s turnout exceeded expectations for Arizona sportsbooks, delivering a jolt of good news from the outset.
“I can tell you that the handle was well over expectations,” Avello said. “And we were honestly surprised by how well it went. As far as the smoothness of the bets, that’s not a surprise to me, and we’ve been doing this for quite some time, opening new states.
“But the user experience was terrific, and Arizona bettors came out, both on Saturday and Sunday, and bet on football in pretty huge numbers.”
Strong Response from AZ Bettors
Avello said that DraftKings’ initial Arizona promotions, such as the +73 deal for the Buccaneers-Chiefs NFL opener, as well as the “score a point” deal for the Arizona Cardinals’ opening game against the Tennessee Titans, were especially popular with Arizona bettors.
“Being from Vegas, I know that people from Arizona like to bet sports. They used to come to my facility all the time,” Avello said. “I got to know a lot of them personally. So, I knew it was a vibrant market.
“They just needed the state to open up and they are open now and get to enjoy [sports betting] like everybody else.”
Avello is confident that the company’s strong opening week in the Grand Canyon state is far from a fluke, especially given the strong start to the season for Arizona NFL betting and Arizona Cardinals betting, and the equally enticing list of college football games on the schedule over the coming weeks.
“Every week, there’s a full slate of college football games, and there’s also a full slate of games involving Arizona teams,” Avello added. “The Cardinals looked really good last week. So that’s going to keep people’s hopes high on the local team.”
Keeping Bettors’ Bets Local
One thing that stood out to Avello was how much faith Arizona bettors placed on their in-state teams, like the Cardinals.
That caught Avello’s eye, as most other states DraftKings has launched in have seen a disparate level of bets placed on in-state teams, versus those teams’ opponents.
He said he hopes that the audience’s Arizona affiliations will keep bettors involved, given the strong prospects that teams like the Cardinals and Phoenix Suns have in their respective leagues.
The Suns currently are currently tied for the third-best NBA Title odds, at +1600, according to DraftKings, which should ramp up interest in Arizona NBA betting, Avello said.
“They’re going to be able to notice all the different types of betting that DraftKings has to offer, from playoff baseball to the NBA and NHL,” Avello said. “We’ll have a lot going on at one time. So, there will be no shortage of content.”
How Others Feel About Opening Week in Arizona
Avello’s thoughts on sports betting in Arizona are shared by several others in the industry, such as WynnBET Director of Public Relations Seth Medvin.
Medvin, in an email to BetArizona.com, said WynnBET Arizona has been blown away by the support shown by Arizona bettors so far, especially surrounding NFL action.
“We are excited about building Week 1’s success with Arizona patrons and delighting customers with our product in Week 2,” Medvin said. “We’ve seen a great deal of Arizona patrons taking advantage of our +100 odds on Kyler Murray to score a touchdown (run or pass), in particular.”
TwinSpires Makes It 8
A Kentucky-based operator, TwinSpires Arizona, became the eighth to launch operations in the state on Thursday.
The operator, which is partnered with the Tonto Apache Tribe and its Mazatzal Hotel and Casino, will launch the first retail sportsbook on Arizona tribal land when it opens later this year.
"Over the last several years, we have worked diligently to secure our sports wagering license and today marks a significant milestone for Tonto Apache," Tonto Apache Chairman Calvin Johnson said in a news release. "In conjunction with our world class partner, we look forward to offering a dynamic sportsbook, supporting the local community and bringing more visitors and sports fans to the Mazatzal Hotel & Casino.
"This opportunity will also present great opportunities and economic benefits for our people."
Others that plan on launching in Arizona over the next calendar year include Fubo Sportsbook, which plans on opening operations in the fourth fiscal quarter of 2021; as well as Bally’s, which plans on opening in early 2022.