The sports landscape has a huge range of commercial stakeholders, from governing bodies and tournaments themselves to data distributors, broadcasters and betting operators. Representing these respective sectors, IMG Arena’s Commercial Partnerships Manager for Golf, Rowan Northcott, DraftKings’ Head of Golf Trading, Stuart Purling, and PGA Tour’s VP Gaming, Scott Warfield, discussed with SBC why golf is the ideal in-play betting product. SBC: Rowan, can you give us an introduction to IMG ARENA and golf? RN: IMG ARENA signed long-term deals with the PGA TOUR, DP World Tour and LPGA Tour in 2018, 2019 and 2022 respectively, with the vision that golf was a sleeping giant within the sports betting landscape. Since then, we have also been fortunate to add golf’s largest events to our portfolio including the Ryder Cup, PGA Championship and Presidents Cup, underlining our commitment to the sport for the foreseeable future. Following the establishment of these partnerships, we created the Golf Event Centre, a turnkey golf betting solution. The Event Centre uses shot-by-shot data to allow fans to follow every shot in an immersive 3D environment. Our data hub ingests this shot data to generate an odds feed enabling fans to bet on every shot, from every player, and on every hole, encompassing 30,000+ different markets at each tournament. Live streaming from two par three holes and an enhanced statistics suite is seamlessly integrated in the product to provide a holistic offering for our sportsbook clients and give golf bettors a one-of-a-kind experience. SBC: What prompted IMG ARENA’s investment in golf? RN: Golf has all the hallmarks of a perfect in-play betting sport. Before we formally entered this space there were no more than 10 markets available, with settlement at the end of the round or tournament. With three to five minutes between every shot, golf is perfectly suited to in-play with bettors having ample time to evaluate the market and selection. Each tournament offers around 35,000 shots per tournament, producing a staggering amount of betting opportunities for fans of the sport. The global nature of golf from every time zone equates to significant “up-time” as sportsbooks have access to live golf from Thursday-Sunday. We knew it would take time for bettors to acclimatise to our offering, but we are now seeing signs, particularly in the booming US market, of in-play golf betting very much taking off. I often think back to when Scott and I were at this year’s WM Phoenix Open. Looking on at the famous 16th hole, we saw first-hand how excited fans were about placing bets on which player would hit it closest to the pin. This sums up the fast-paced and innovative betting activity that we are trying to create that was amplified by one of golf’s most famous tournaments. The excitement created for bettors gives all 35,000+ shots of a tournament its own story. SBC: Scott, now that the Golf Event Centre is established within operators’ platforms and the PGA TOUR’s fans are becoming more affiliated with your tournaments as a betting proposition, what comes next in this journey? SW: With the Golf Event Centre now available to the vast majority of the betting population, we are focused on growing the reach and engagement of the product through a few key avenues. In 2023, we brought the Golfbet content brand in-house which, through both our O&O and social properties, is a key lever to engage and inform golf bettors. With the PGA TOUR’s robust ShotLink data and tournament access, we can bring golf storytelling to life through a betting lens unlike any other platform and are continuing to invest in content production and innovative data tools. In addition to digital and social innovation, we have an opportunity to capitalise on the intersection of media and betting through our robust media ecosystem, including broadcast and D2C streaming. Over the coming months, fans will continue to see an organic evolution of our live coverage to incorporate engaging decision-making data alongside live competition. Last, but not least, we are continuously finding new ways to collaborate with our official betting operator partners across our collective platforms to bring world-class golf offerings to sports fans and bettors. SBC: Rowan, what are IMG ARENA’s plans for golf as a betting proposition? RN: The first challenge is to place the correct insight in front of the customer at the right time to help them make an informed decision. Therefore, we are doubling down on statistics and insights. Visualisation of these insights is key, so we released our very own strokes gained model this year and challenged our data engineers to make this information digestible. Hence the use of radar charts, percentages and rankings tables. Secondly, we want to focus on offering fans the chance to watch and bet, rather than watch or bet. Interactive streaming and bringing all the features of the product into one place is a key focus of ours across a range of sports, not just golf. Finally, in 2024, we have a host of exciting new features coming next year using AI that should add a completely new dimension for the bettor – again adding to engagement
Credit: Svet foto, Shutterstock

In recognition of the rapidly growing sports betting industry in the US, the PGA Tour has renewed its membership of the Leadership Circle of the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG).

This continuation of its NCPG membership has been accompanied by new membership of the Coalition for Responsible Sports Betting Advertising (CRSBA), a voluntary association of sports leagues and media entities set up by FOX and the NFL in 2023.

The objective of the CRSBA is to ensure responsible gambling principles are integrated into any advertising activity conducted by betting operators in partnership with sports organisations.

“With the proliferation of sports betting in the United States, the PGA TOUR remains committed to establishing a safe and healthy marketplace for consumers,” said Scott Warfield, PGA TOUR Vice President, Gaming. 

“The TOUR is proud to stand alongside its fellow sports leagues and network partners on the coalition, as well as with our colleagues at NCPG, in our continued mission to educate fans on the merits of gambling responsibly and the resources available to address problem gambling issues.”

The federal ban on sports betting in the US under PASPA – which was passed back in 1992 – was repealed by the Supreme Court in 2018, with judges ruling that the legislation violated the 13th amendment.

Since then, the sports betting industry has grown at a rapid pace in the US with over 39 states plus the District of Colombia now open to some form of regulated betting, with some also allowing online casino gaming (igaming).

This has unsurprisingly been accompanied by an increase in sports marketing activity by betting operators, many of which have signed partnerships with some of the nations most widely followed sports tournaments. 

The PGA Tour has been no exception to this, having partnered with the US’ second largest sportsbook by market share, DraftKings. This Boston-based operator has also partnered with the NBA and UFC.

By becoming a CRSBA member, the PGA Tour joins the NFL, MLB, MLS, NASCAR, NBA, WNBA, NHL, NBC Sports and FOX. The organisation operates to some key principles, such as ensuring betting is only marketed to people of the legal age, that it does not promote irresponsible gambling and that it is not misleading.

A Coalition statement read: “As the legalisation of sports betting spreads nationwide, we feel it is critical to establish guardrails around how sports betting should be advertised to consumers across the United States.

“Each member of the coalition feels a responsibility to ensure sports betting advertising is not only targeted to an appropriate audience but also that the message is thoughtfully crafted and carefully delivered.”

Keith Whyte, Executive Director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, added: “The PGA TOUR’s continuous investment in responsible gambling and problem gambling education initiatives exemplifies its leadership in navigating the evolving landscape of legalised sports betting with integrity and responsibility.”

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