The betting providers are expecting a great week. Betting on golf has exploded in the past few months thanks to expanded legalized betting and a pandemic-inspired surge in golf interest. At DraftKings alone, the sports betting grip for golf has increased tenfold this year compared to the previous year.
“We saw an explosion of interest in content and betting on golf because it was all there,” said Patrick Keane, executive director of Action Network, a media company dedicated to sports gaming. “There was only so much Taiwanese baseball and Russian table tennis that people could follow.”
The spread of the game of golf was driven by the sport itself. When it became clear two and a half years ago that federal law banning most forms of sports gaming would be abolished, the PGA Tour aggressively began rethinking both its business model and regulatory framework. While some professional sports leagues were slower to come, tour officials knew that friendly betting had long been a part of the sport.
“The idea of competing in this way is inherent in the game,” said Norb Gambuzza, PGA Tour senior vice president of media and games. “It’s not something we hide from or hate to talk about.”
The tour’s plans accelerated when the sports world suddenly stopped spinning in March. Even after tour officials canceled and postponed the three-month worth of events, it became clear that Pro Golf would be playing again before other sports. The tour knew there was a short window to use.
In just under six weeks, officials rewrote the travel policy that governed activities and partnerships related to gambling. Then contracts were signed with four top-class gambling providers. The ink was barely dry when the tour resumed in mid-June. While players continue to be banned from betting on golf events, the tour now provides more leeway for tournaments and players to partner with gambling companies, and for networks to incorporate odds into event broadcasts.
“And we did it all very deliberately because there is so little supply,” said Gambuzza.
Several sportsbooks said their golf stakes have doubled – and in some cases tripled – since that time a year ago. The sport still pursues soccer, basketball, and baseball for betting activities in the United States, but most operators say golf has been the biggest growth area year over year.
At Action Network, Keane said, the average number of monthly users accessing golf content has increased nearly 300 percent since last year, the biggest area of growth on its platforms. As more fans discover it – 20 states now allow sports betting, more are on the way – they will also discover a sport that is relatively easy to play.
“People are confused about the colloquial language of betting – what is plus-120, what is minus-130, a parlay? – so many different confusing terms, ”said Keane. “It’s easy with golf. You put a winner, top 5, top 20, a head-to-head matchup. It’s almost like a futures bet that ends in four days. “
It’ll likely get more complicated – and more lucrative. The tour tailored some of their biggest initiatives around the sports gamer, with everything pointing to live in-game betting.
After all, streaming videos following specific players or groups and real-time shot tracker data available on the tour’s platforms makes it easy to bet on virtually every aspect of a tournament, including individual holes and strokes. They’ll even allow prop bets on who can get the longest ride or closest to the pin on a par-3.
“When it comes to sports betting, the pace of play means that there is probably no better sport than live betting,” said Ezra Kucharz, DraftKings chief business officer. “Think of all golfers, all holes, every single shot – it’s great for live betting.”
Such bets are already popular in “more mature markets” like the UK, said Jay Croucher, Head of Trading at PointsBet. “We expect the US to go in the same direction,” he said. “We’re not quite there yet, but it’s coming.”
PGA Tour officials knew that mixing golf and gambling was risky, Gambuzza said. This was backed up by the fact that one of the biggest stars, Phil Mickelson, was once embroiled in an insider trading scandal with a notorious sports player. Even before working with gambling operators, the tour signed a contract with Genius Sports, a sports data company, to help monitor gambling activities around the game. Gambuzza said some falls have been marked but the tour is not aware of any nefarious activity.
“We understand that nothing is bulletproof and there is a risk of hosting an 18-hole sporting event where 100-150 players compete against each other and fans are nearby,” he said. “And if someone sits here in my position and says,” Yes, we have a foolproof system, “that would be grossly exaggerated at best.”
With the Masters landing in November this year and no nightly NBA and NHL games to please the weather, gambling providers expect a busy week, possibly one of the biggest non-NFL gambling games of the year. And even those with no money at stake at home can’t escape the growing specter of sports betting, especially if DeChambeau – a Plus 800 favorite according to DraftKings – stays on the hunt. It’ll be right there on his cap.