By: Evan Rothman May 11, 2022
A rendering of the forthcoming DraftKings sportsbook at TPC Scottsdale.
Has wagering on golf taken off in the four years since a Supreme Court decision helped bring about legalized sports betting in many U.S. states? You bet your Nassau it has.
The amount of money wagered with PGA Tour official betting operators aka the handle rose almost 50 percent from 2020 to 21, and total bets increased almost 40 percent. Further growth is pretty much a given; among the more interesting questions is what kind of golf betting the future might bring, and what role it will play in the Tours business more generally. To find out, we spoke to Scott Warfield, the Tours vice president of gaming.
GOLF: The PGA Tour is bullish on in-play betting wagers made during an event, not before. Why?
Scott Warfield: Whos going to shoot the lowest round? This player versus that player. You get your bet in Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday; you come back on Sunday to see if you won. Its very stale, very stagnant.
Where were moving is focusing more on the live. Theres three holes left, and a threesome is coming through. Whos going to have the low score on this hole? Jon Rahm has 250 yards to the pin from the fairway on a par-5. Here are the odds he can get it inside 20 feet, 10 feet, five feet.
In more mature markets, like Europe, where theyve had legalized sports betting for decades instead of years, in-play betting represents somewhere in the 70-80 percent range of all bets. Theyre less likely to bet on things like over-under, or a money line, or a spread. They bet more on the next tennis point, or whos going to have the next foul or score the next basketball point. Its much more microtransactions.
In the U.S., that in-play number is about 30 percent growing, but significantly smaller. Its been an illegal territory, and the easiest thing to bet on with a friend or a bookie or whatnot is that money line or spread or whos going to win the game. Over the next three, five, seven years, we see that in-game number continuing to increase to 50, 60, 70 percent. If the American bettor follows that trajectory, its my belief there are two sports that stand the best chance to capitalize baseball and golf.
GOLF: Why those two?
SW: Because of the amount of content and the pace of play, which is leisurely enough to work perfectly with in-play betting. With IMG Arena, our exclusive data provider in the space, were able to offer different opportunities around every hole, every player, every shot. Because of our investment in ShotLink data and, again, the pace of play, it sets itself up great for the growth of in-play betting here in the States.
GOLF: Explain the role of IMG Arena in in-play betting.
SW: You really cant do in-play betting in golf without the official league data. And if you want that data, i.e. ShotLink, thats where the IMG Arenas Golf Event Centre product comes in. Consider squatters people who come in and can watch an event and basically price and model different bet types without official league data. Its nearly impossible in golf, right? To know whether the shot is at 129, or is that 911? Unless you have the Golf Event Centre.
A ShotLink tablet in action on the PGA Tour.
GOLF: The Tour has five official betting operators. Whats their role, beyond just taking bets?
SW: FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM, PointsBet, Parx those operators are the mouthpiece to sports fans, to sports bettors. Having partnerships with these market leaders helps because since theyre in business with us, theyre helping promote our events.
On days when theres an NFL game on, youre still getting promotion of PGA Tour events. Or in the spring when the Tour is up against NBA playoff games, theyre still promoting the Tour and talking about it.
Were trying almost to create a market. Traditionally, this has just been try and predict the outright winner of a golf tournament. We want to get to a place where its much more in-play and live and microtransactions. Part of that evolution is educating sports fans that if you didnt bet on the outright winner by Thursday morning, its OK. That market remains open, and it moves throughout the event as players bogey or par or birdie. Its education and entertainment and thats where the operators play a disproportionately important role for us, because theyre doing a lot of that work.
GOLF: Whats the story with the upcoming sports book project at TPC Scottsdale?
SW: DraftKings is operating in the state of Arizona as our designee, and theyre building a retail sportsbook at TPC Scottsdale that will be one of the best sportsbooks in the world, a global destination for golf fans. Ive shown it to a few of my golf buddies. Kiawah, Pinehurst and Bandon Dunes will still be in the rotation for our annual golf trips but now youll have a chance to go to TPC Scottsdale, play 36 holes of golf, sit in a world-class DraftKings sportsbook and watch your favorite events. Itll be a big one for us in the fall of 23.
GOLF: Beyond the financial considerations, why is it so important?
SW: The WM Phoenix Open is our largest crowd, and its a very young crowd. The scene is a scene. Given the brand of that event, having a sportsbook there just adds to the allure of one of the years most popular tournaments.
On top of that, the other 51 weeks a year have us really excited. Again, youre going to be able to play a couple world-class courses and drive your cart over in between those two courses to an open-air sportsbook with fire pits. Its going to be a unique thing.
We get asked a lot if this is something well see a lot of, and the answers no. It has to be the right course, the right tournament, and the right brand fit. This checked all those boxes for us. I wont say there wont be another one, but this will be unique. I think for DraftKings it will be almost a West Coast headquarters. Thats how theyre thinking about the uniqueness of this facility.
GOLF: How would you sum up the PGA Tours relationship with sports betting where it is, where its heading?
SW: For us, this whole space for us is about engagement. The Supreme Court made a decision in 2018 that allowed the states to regulate sports betting, if they so choose. Weve been trying to operate within that framework, continue to maintain and ensure absolute integrity with our product, and leverage the opportunity to engage the core fans and grow our audience.
Yes, there will be commercial benefit to all the stakeholders in all the sports. But first and foremost, we look at it as a way in this fragmented media landscape to get a fan to watch an extra three holes each weekend or attend two more events every year, to get a 25-year-old whos never thought about PGA Tour golf and viewing it or attending it as something they should consider.
Theres not a lot of new ways into sports fandom. Social media, e-sports, sports betting, the metaverse. Those are all areas where we can engage that key 21- to 35-year-old fanbase and do it responsibly and appropriately. For us, its continuing to find those partners who do it the right way, and creatively and look at what this might look like 7-10 years from now, not necessarily what it looks like today.
A former executive editor ofGOLF Magazine, Rothman is now a remote contract freelancer. His primary role centers around custom publishing, which entails writing, editing and procuring client approval on travel advertorial sections. Since 2016, he has also written, pseudonymously, the popular Rules Guy monthly column, and often pens the recurring How It Works page. Rothmans freelance work for both GOLFandGOLF.com runs the gamut from equipment, instruction, travel and feature-writing, to editing major-championship previews and service packages.
The rest is here:
The future of golf betting? Heres what the PGA Tour thinks it will look like - Golf.com