A capacity crowd gazed down on the perfectly manicured 17th hole at TPC Scottsdale on a sun-splashed Wednesday afternoon, chatting amongst themselves inside the DraftKIngs-branded Kiva Club.
The cadre of golf fans and socialites were there to take in the 2023 Waste Management Phoenix Open, to see and be seen, while placing a wager or two along the way — perhaps with one of numerous Super Bowl 57 free bets offers available in the state.
That’s precisely the reason why DraftKings Sportsbook Arizona partnered with the Phoenix PGA Tour stop, looking to use the annual spectacle as a front door for the company’s sports betting apparatus in the state.
For Johnny Avello, who serves as DraftKings director of race & sportsbook operations, the 2023 Open mixed with Sunday’s Super Bowl LVII down Loop 101 in Glendale presents a win-win for the company.
Avello believes DraftKings, which laps the 17 Arizona sportsbooks in terms of overall betting handle (at just over $2.3 billion), can use the event lovingly referred to as “The People’s Open” as a front door for the Big Game.
“This is a big week for us, with this golf tournament alone and then to pile on, we have the Super Bowl at the end of the week, which is incredible,” Avello told BetArizona.com. “… We’ll see what the numbers are after Sunday. But the previous four Super Bowls that we've been able to participate in and book they were in states where gambling was not legal. And actually, the teams were in states where gambling was illegal. So this year we actually have it in a state where gambling is legal.
“So, it sounds like the makings for a nice number, doesn’t it?”
What Phoenix Open Adds For DraftKings
This week’s tour stop in Scottsdale is the last before DraftKings opens its retail facility next year a short wedge shot away from the clubhouse at TPC Scottsdale.
While there are 17 Arizona betting apps operational, the DraftKings retail location will become the fourth at a state pro sports venue — joining BetMGM Sportsbook Arizona at State Farm Stadium, FanDuel Sportsbook Arizona at Footprint Center and Caesars Sportsbook Arizona at Chase Field.
Avello said the Waste Management Phoenix Open’s unique stature as a hub of revelry and golfing excellence should allow the future retail facility to be an instant hit with the Valley, while serving as a meeting point for visitors year round.
“For next year's tournament, how many people are going to be able to fit in?” Avello joked. “I was saying to someone earlier, there's thousands of people here and you know the sportsbook can only hold so many and you have to walk by it to come in here.”
Avello expects the future DraftKings Sportsbook at TPC Scottsdale to serve as a motivator year-round for people to come out to the North Valley.
“Everybody’s going to want to go in there to make a bet and check it out and have a drink and all that. So that's going to be a pretty cool thing,” Avello said. “But when the tournament’s not going on, it's going to be a great place for customers to go. That camaraderie about being in a sportsbook, talking to a ticket-writer; getting to know the people in there. Watching the game, screaming, all that's going to take place and that's what retail books do.”
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Sports Betting An Activity For the Masses
Among the people lounging inside the DraftKings hospitality area Wednesday was former Arizona Wildcat and NFL defensive end Copeland Bryan, who played in the league from 2006 to 2011.
Bryan told BetArizona.com the dawn of modern sports betting has taken former athletes by surprise, but he’s thrilled to see how far wagering has come in his adopted home state.
“It’s funny because I’m originally from the Bay Area and we’re known for tech more than football,” Copeland said. “Whereas Arizona, it’s not Texas or other states, where football is life. So as far as sports betting is concerned, to see how far it’s ramped up in Phoenix and Tucson, it’s incredible.”
The former second team All-Pac 10 defender said he’s hopeful current college and NFL players can find a way to monetize their name, image and likeness through sports betting operators, so they can reap the rewards alongside their prospective universities and pro teams.
“In today’s college football world, NIL is such a big deal, so a player’s namesake is key right now,” Copeland said. “So, people that can bet now are going to have even more opportunities for guys to get their name out there, which potentially can translate into more NIL dollars for everybody.”
As a former college and professional athlete, Bryan has seen the negatives that came from illegal wagering, such as point-shaving scandals and other means of corrupting contests.
He’s confident today’s sports betting structure is much safer for athletes and leagues thanks to the steps operators like DraftKings have taken to ensure fair competition in all contests.
“Some of the worst aspects of sports betting when it was under the table, [regulated sports betting] has really changed and lessened some of the impact of that,” Bryan said. “Now, you have to have an account and there are no more bookies or middlemen, and it’s much more regulated. So, there’s no opportunity for people to manipulate the action.”
Increased Scrutiny Leads to Sports Betting Success
That well-regulated marketplace has allowed states like Arizona to vault up the American sports betting totem pole, with the Grand Canyon State taking in more than $7.2 billion in wagers between September 2021 and November 2022.
Coming off consecutive months with sports betting handles well above $600 million, Avello sees the Arizona wagering market as one primed to continue its ascendance, beginning with this week’s slate of golf and football action.
The beauty of today’s mobile wagering structure, Avello said, is bettors can wager on multiple sporting events as they unfold — on both tournament favorite Jon Rahm to win in Phoenix this weekend (at +700) and the Eagles to capture their second Super Bowl on Sunday (as a -125 moneyline favorite).
“You’ve got these two huge events and you can bet on both of them. And you can bet on both of them while they're going on,” Avello said. “So, you don't have to get your bets down early Thursday morning. And the same will be true for the Super Bowl.
“Wagers don’t close when [Super Bowl LVII] kicks off either. So, in-game wagering, I think that's what people are going to really enjoy this week with these two events.”