PGA Tour Approves Gambling Sponsorships with Immediate Effect

Golfer about to strike putt

30-second summary

  • Approval applies to both events and players
  • Change comes into effect immediately
  • Casinos and fantasy sports betting operators can strike deals
  • Sportsbook operators in the US are excluded from sponsorships there

The PGA Tour has approved sponsorships of its events by gambling companies. The policy change is a reaction to the Supreme Court’s ruling in May 2018 that overturned the federal ban on sports betting.

Gambling operators who currently operate sports betting activities in the US will not be permitted to sponsor anything in the US itself but may be considered in other territories.

Not an unexpected move

The PGA Tour voted Tuesday to overturn its previous ban on gambling companies sponsoring its events or players. The move came after the organization had undertaken a comprehensive review of its policies.

The decision comes into immediate effect. It brings the PGA Tour in line with other sports leagues that have begun to take advantage of the opportunities offered by sports betting tie-ups.

Player-director Kevin Streelman, who has a seat on the tour’s policy board, said: “With the direction the tour is going on the legalized gambling side of things. It’s good for all parties to try and maximize earning potential and new business relationships for everyone involved.”

The PGA Tour had been mulling the policy change since even before the Supreme Court overturned the federal ban. Just a month before that landmark legal decision, Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour’s commissioner, said they hoped to maximize opportunities with sports operators.

Sponsorship rules

The PGA Tour manages six golf events globally. Gambling operators such as major casinos and fantasy sports can apply to be official marketing partners of the PGA. They can also tie up deals with any of the individual tournaments. However, companies offering sports betting in the US will not be permitted to sponsor US events. This is because they would be competing with the PGA Tour itself.

This rule affects companies such as Bet 365 or William Hill, which have already brokered sports betting deals within the US. They may be considered as marketing partners in other territories, however.

Players on the tour are also permitted to seek sponsorship from gambling companies.

In a further move, betting companies will now also be permitted to run TV ads during the broadcasting of PGA Tour tournaments.

Responsible gambling

Andy Levinson, senior vice-president of the PGA Tour, said: “As the situation with legalized sports betting in the US has evolved since the Supreme Court’s ruling last May, we’ve seen broader acceptance in sports betting and gaming involvement with pro sports.

“We felt it was time to look at our policies, given the public perception around gaming, and to update those policies to be consistent with public sentiment.”

The PGA Tour clearly hopes that the rule change will attract more spectators and increase the number of golf fans.

Vice-president and assistant general counsel for the PGA Tour, David Miller said: “We want to develop partnerships in the gaming and fantasy industry that drive fan engagement – that provide our fans a deeper way to enjoy golf. We expect these partnerships will help create new golf gaming products that will enhance the in-venue and at-home fan experience.”

But he added: “Any relationship must promote responsible gaming and be consistent with the tour’s integrity efforts.”

Maintaining integrity

The US sportsbook rule falls within the PGA Tour’s integrity program, which was launched in January 2018. The program is designed to protect the golf contests from malign influences, including gambling. Its mission is to “maintain integrity and prevent and mitigate betting-related corruption in PGA Tour competitions.”

To this end, the PGA Tour hired Genius Sports to develop education programs for its officials, players, and support staff. They get training to be able to spot corruption within their sport, such as match-fixing and unusual betting patterns on a player or fixture. All those working for tour events, even volunteers, are obliged to adhere to the integrity program.

Levinson noted: “We feel that being partners with the companies that are operating sports betting will actually benefit our sport from an integrity perspective because we will be ensuring that there is a transparent sharing of information. If they see an issue, they’re going to tell us about it; they’re not just going to tell their state regulator, they’re going to have an obligation to tell us.”