Sports gambling will garner billions in wagers in the coming years. Professional golf wants to make sure it has a spot at the forefront of sports gambling.
The PGA Tour as well as gambling industry leaders are working on ways to best facilitate wagers on tour events. Traditionally overshadowed in online gambling markets by sports like football, basketball and baseball, golf stakeholders believe their sport is a logical fit into the fledgling U.S. gambling market and an untapped opportunity for fans looking to place a bet.
Speaking to Golf, handicapper Brady Kannon said golf and gambling go “hand in Hand.”
“Since the game’s inception, its players have been gambling among each other. Books are a dime a dozen on golf gambling and all the different betting games you can play on the course with friends.
The game’s structure is also conducive for gambling. Bettors can wager on not just who will win a tournament. There’s bets on player finishes, if they’ll make or miss a cut, if they’ll shoot above or below a certain score or if they’ll top another player head-to-head, as well as literally hundreds of other possibilities.
Golf also situates itself for the growing in-play betting market. Gaming proprietor Martin de Knijff plans to introduce a “SuperLive” betting service later this year. It will offer the tantalizing prospect of a wager on every single shot. This means a gambler could receive real-time odds on whether or not Tiger Woods makes his next put and place their bet accordingly - or partake in one of literally hundreds of other golf betting options.
For decades, the PGA Tour joined the other major U.S. sports leagues in opposition to gambling expansion. When the U.S. Supreme Court unexpectedly took up a legal challenge to the federal sports betting ban and later overturned it, the tour was one of the quickest to embrace the new revenue opportunity, even before it was officially repealed.
Commissioner Jay Monahan said his sport would pursue the commercial opportunities gambling offered. Accounting for only about two percent of legal wagers in Las Vegas, Monahan said the tour had a chance to grab its share of the multi-billion dollar sports betting industry and possibly expand its reach.
There’s plenty of encouraging signs to support that push.
Daily fantasy provider DraftKings reported a 2,300 percent increase in its golf offerings from last year. With Tiger Woods’ return to the tour, as well as a crop of young stars at the top of leaderboards, golf has seen some of its best television ratings in nearly 20 years.
A reinvigorated spectator base, new data tracking methods and the slow state-by-state growth of legal sports betting has the tour, and gamblers, poised to grow its share in the fledgling U.S. sports betting market.
As golf embraces gambling, and the ensuing revenue streams, its also aware of the risks. The diversity of wagers that makes golf betting so enticing also opens itself to malfeasance. A golfer may not take a payoff to shank a drive and miss out on a title, but may be tempted, golf officials fear, to miss a put on a Sunday when they’re already out of contention.
To combat this, the tour seeks what it and others leagues call an “integrity fee” to safeguard the game. These request, which have been as much as one percent of revenue for states with legalized betting, have largely fallen flat in state legislatures unwilling to give up some of their revenue. The Leagues, including the PGA Tour, argue the funds are necessary for player education and to protect the sport from fan interference.
But legal sports betting has existed for decades in Nevada and billions are wagered on the black market each year. Golf has reported no major interference from nefarious gamblers.
Even tour officials acknowledge sports betting poses a limited existential risk to the sport. Tour vice president Andy Levinson told Golf his organization hasn’t noticed an influx of disruptive fans. Top golfers regularly compete in Europe where gambling is widespread. Tournaments have gone one without any betting-related issues.
With or without these fees, the tour is on solid footing with gambling going forward. The better it appreciates the sports structure in the context of legal wagering, and the more open it is to embrace revenue streams gambling brings, the better professional golf will capture a growing market.
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