The PGA Tour has embraced gambling in a number of ways over the past two to three years. But the organization’s next move is an aggressive one as officials announced on Wednesday morning their plans to enter the retail space with legislation pending in Arizona.
The PGA Tour and DraftKings will partner together to open a sportsbook on-site at TPC Scottsdale—site of the annual Waste Management Phoenix Open—in what the tour calls a “state-of-the-art, premium experience” for fans to be able to bet on all sports at the golf course, Golf Digest has learned. The news comes as legislation passed in Arizona on Monday that will allow mobile and retail sports betting, but also gives professional sports leagues the ability to open "in-stadium" type of retail experiences. The state’s governor, Doug Ducey, is expected to sign the legislation into law later this week.
The Arizona law allows professional sports organizations such as the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals, the MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks and the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes to partner with betting operators to run retail sportsbooks as in-stadium experiences. That’s the type of retail operation expected to open at TPC Scottsdale, with the tour announcing the deal after months of negotiations with other betting operators. DraftKings, which is the tour’s official daily-fantasy sports (DFS) partner and the tour’s first official betting operator, ultimately got the deal.
“This is a definitive step forward. Some of the steps forward we take in this space are small and incremental . . . this one is full stride,” Norb Gambuzza, the PGA Tour’s senior vice president of media and gaming, told Golf Digest.
Gambuzza said the timeline for the sportsbook—which would be open year-round, not just for the Waste Management Phoenix Open—is to have it ready for the 2023 Super Bowl, which will take place in nearby Glendale, Ariz. Of course, the tour’s WMPO—the largest, most-attended event each year, featuring a rowdy, concert-like atmosphere—also annually coincides with Super Bowl weekend, meaning that the party will truly be raging at TPC Scottsdale in 2023.
Of course, this move raises a few questions: What’s to stop someone from placing a wager at the tour-sanctioned sportsbook, then running to the golf course and screaming in a player’s backswing—potentially influencing the outcome of the tournament? Justin Thomas just a few months ago was asked about this very issue, and he admitted he and other players were concerned about that potential.
Gambuzza says the tour will continue to discuss and engage its PGA Tour Player Advisory Council on these topics.
“The level of frequency and volume of communication on the topic of sports betting has been and will continue to grow with our players,” Gambuzza said.
“We don’t view that specific item as something that’s going to be a contributing factor to grow our risk factor. We are continuing to look at and strengthen and emphasize our integrity program. We’re continuing to look at security and what measures we can take to prevent and inhibit that behavior."
Gambuzza said the next steps will be deciding between three possible spots at TPC Scottsdale for the construction of the retail space. (The facility has 36 holes, and some sites being considered include golf-course views.) But he described the retail operation as one that would be a “world-class, premium experience with great food and a great sports atmosphere—on the site of a golf course.”
Though a bold move for the tour, Gambuzza explained that it represents how fast the space continues to evolve, as this wasn’t an item on the tour’s business model for 2020. But once the legislation was being discussed with tokens available to professional sports leagues last summer, Gambuzza’s team started a proposal that presented to the tour’s senior leadership team, including commissioner Jay Monahan. Gambuzza described this step as taking even more “thought and care” as others in which the tour has taken.
"It’s indicative of this entire space for us—and all of the leagues—and how it really continues to evolve under our feet,” Gambuzza said.
"The same thought and care and diligence that we apply to every decision of consequence that we take in this space was applied to this case, and more."
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