An oasis of forest green grass and abundant water in a sea of beige high desert scenery greets visitors as they approach the entrance to TPC Scottsdale — home to the 2022 Waste Management Phoenix Open.
A brisk 10-to-15-minute walk later, and golf fans and revelers get to a two-level tent, sandwiched between the par-four 10th and par-four 17th holes, emblazoned with an insignia Arizona sports betting customers know well.
The aforementioned logo belongs to New York-based operator DraftKings Sportsbook Arizona, which is one of the key sponsors of the Grand Canyon state’s lone PGA Tour stop.
The Phoenix area course will be home to DraftKings' first-ever retail sportsbook in Arizona, though the completion date on the facility and its exact location are still in the works.
Sitting along the rail of the DraftKings tent Wednesday was gambling industry stalwart Johnny Avello, wearing a black polo shirt with the company’s logo on it.
For Avello and the team at DraftKings Sportsbook, this week’s PGA Tour stop is both an opportunity to bask in the company’s historic start in the state, as well as a chance to set the stage for the company’s future here.
“The Waste Management Phoenix Open, it’s magnificent, it really is,” Avello told BetArizona.com. “I’ve been to a lot of golf tournaments over the years, but this right here, it’s a party. All the pros are a part of it and the celebrities are, too. So, it’s different than other tournaments. Everybody’s loose. And it says a lot about what the Thunderbirds and the PGA Tour has done here, because this setup is miraculous.”
An Arizona Coming Out Party
Both Avello and the DraftKings Sportsbook team wanted to use this week’s tournament as a chance to build on the company’s runaway start in the state.
So far, DraftKings Sportsbook has raked in more than $397 million in wagers between Sept. 9 and the end of November — well ahead of No. 2 FanDuel Sportsbook Arizona, which had $287.2 million in wagers over the same period.
For Avello, the operator’s impressive start in Arizona has a lot to do with its mobile application and the nonstop demand for sports betting in one of the company’s newest markets.
“I’m going to boast a bit here; the reason that we’re No. 1 down here is because we have the best application,” Avelo said. “It’s easy to use. It’s easy to navigate and find everything you need, and we have more content than probably anybody else. If you like to bet on the traditional sports, we have football, basketball, and hockey, that’s all there. So is cricket and darts and cornhole; anything else you can think of. So that’s what separates us from the competition.”
Strong Demand for PGA Action in Arizona
Avello also expects big numbers, in terms of wagers and volume betting, at this weekend’s PGA tournament — thanks to an expansion of betting options, including outright winner and prop bets.
The gambling industry legend sees the vast expansion of options as key to unlocking the sport’s potential for users, both in Arizona and in the other markets in which DraftKings operates. The 200,000-plus fans in attendance for each of the WMPO’s four days should fuel a surge in PGA action in Arizona, according to Avello.
“When you get golf, you can bet it before the tournament starts and then you can bet on in-play golf,” Avello said. “And that’s what’s really big. That’s where the growth is in the industry. So, people will be betting each hole individually. There’ll be betting on guys to win as we keep adjusting those odds throughout the tournament. So there are more ways to bet golf than the pre-match futures that we’ve always had up in the past.”
Avello expects that by the time Thursday’s opening round of what’s lovingly referred to as “The People’s Open” tees off, there will be historic levels of wagers on the event through Arizona betting apps.
The state’s sports betting opening six-month stretch was something the industry mainstay saw coming, after years of seeing Arizonans make the five-hour trek up U.S. 93 to Las Vegas.
The difference now is Arizonans and their out-of-state brethren in town for the four-day fiesta of golfing and decadence can sit back on one of the dozens of stuffed bar-style chairs inside the DraftKings-sponsored hospitality tent (or anywhere there’s room to sit on the course) and pull the trigger on whatever wager suits their fancy.
It’s a present few could have seen in years past but is one that is music to folks like Avello’s ears, sort of like the pounding house music blaring over the public address system in the shadows of the perfectly manicured 10th green — located 100 yards behind the DraftKings suite.
“I knew that this was always going to be a good state because we're going in Vegas all the years I've been there,” Avello said. “But to be honest with you, I didn't think it was going to be this big. You know, Arizona's been one of our top five states, and the numbers continue to grow. So, I’m kind of surprised that how quickly we got to our goal and vision, though we’ve got a long way to go. There's a lot of Arizona to cover yet.”