The PGA Tour has announced that on-site gambling will be introduced at its tournaments next year in the hope of attracting new audiences and making golf more exciting for spectators attending events.
Golf has been preparing for legalised sports betting for a number of years as gaming restrictions are being gradually relaxed across the United States. A total of 13 US states currently offer legal sports betting, whether it be in-person, online, or via mobile apps, and that number could double by the end of 2020.
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, speaking ahead of this week’s ZOZO Championship in Japan, said: “It’s all about engagement. When done right, it gives fans the opportunity to engage with your sport over a longer period of time and have more interest in what’s happening across the entire player field. It’s legalised in a lot of international markets and we’ve put the right systems in place, both in terms of an integrity programme and monitoring activity.”
Monahan, who is aware that golf betting will need close monitoring to stop match-fixing, added: “As it [betting] is becoming legalised by state in the US, you can either participate or not, and we feel smarter to be participating, versus letting others control it. We’re going to participate in a thoughtful way and I’m really comfortable with that.”
Monahan has not released details on the betting products and services that will be made available next year, but he did say the tour has partnered with IMG Arena – a London-based sports betting data collection agency – to develop the offerings and that their top priority was keeping golf’s integrity intact.
“Once you start to participate, you can eliminate negative bets. We’ve done a ton of work to make certain that that’s the position we’re in,” Monahan said. “I think when we come forward, you’ll see that we’ve taken significant steps to address that.”
In addition to adding sports betting services for next year’s events, the PGA Tour’s official data via the ShotLink system – a system of lasers and cameras that track every player’s shot for each hole – will soon be sold to betting companies around the world in partnership with IMG Arena.
Freddie Longe, managing director at IMG Arena, which signed a deal with the PGA Tour in September to allow for the distribution of official scoring data to betting operators within North America, added: “As the sports betting market in the United States evolves, extending our relationship with the PGA Tour is an important next step for IMG Arena. For the first time, sports fans will have access to shot-by-shot action, from tournaments all-year-round using official PGA Tour ShotLink data. We continue to feel that golf has the audience, interest and following to become one of the leading in-play betting sports globally.”
The European Tour, which signed its own agreement with IMG Arena in February to distribute official scoring data from its events, is following the PGA Tour’s path in offering the ShotLink system at its tournaments next season. The European Tour’s Golf Integrity Unit will use Genius Sports’ bet monitoring system, which is also employed by the Premier League, to compare real-time odds movements from global betting markets with predictive algorithms, providing automatic alerts on any irregular gambling activity.