Pro golf’s top association appears to be adopting an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach regarding the online sports betting industry.
On Thursday, Bloomberg News reported that the PGA Tour had issued a request for proposals (RFP) for sports data companies to submit bids on providing real-time tournament info to online sports betting operators.
The RFP document viewed by Bloomberg states that the PGA Tour “continues to explore the risk/return trade-off associated with potential entry into the online sports gaming category.” The RFP also seeks to explore other “financial upside” options, including revenue/profit sharing or equity deals.
The RFP said it would evaluate all responses before determining a course of action. A spokesman told Bloomberg that the Tour was “far away from any kind of deal” while insisting that the Tour issues such RFPs “all the time.”
Among the companies reportedly vying for the PGA Tour data contract are WME/IMG, which holds exclusive rights to official ATP/WTA tennis data, and Sportradar, which provides data on a variety of sports to bookmakers around the globe.
Other pro sports bodies have ventured down this data road before, only to retreat at the last minute. Last April, the National Football League inked a data deal with a US affiliate of Sportradar, but clamped down hard in November after that same affiliate promoted an in-play DFS app that vowed to eventually launch “full sports betting for cash (in territories where authorized).”
The PGA has a complicated relationship with the betting industry. In September, the PGA formally prohibited its members from endorsing or playing on daily fantasy sports sites, based on the PGA’s belief that DFS sites “are considered illegal in many states” and thus PGA members’ participation in DFS contests amounted to “conduct unbecoming of a professional.”
Some PGA members are more, er, professional than others in terms of their approach to betting. Phil Mickelson is notorious for his betting activity with other PGA members and (allegedly) with illegal online sportsbooks.
Golf’s gatekeepers are undoubtedly aware of their sport’s waning popularity with younger demographics, and the expectation appears to be that in-play betting would give golf’s appeal a badly needed boost among the mobile betting set.