Amid a changing shift in the acceptance of legalized sports betting within the United States, the PGA Tour is revising its regulations toward sponsorships with gambling companies.
The PGA Tour will now let its players and tournaments have sponsorship with casinos and daily fantasy companies, and is open to having a gambling-focused company as an official marketing partner for the six tours it operates.
Players and tournaments are limited to deals with large gaming companies and daily fantasy companies and are still prohibited from deals with sportsbooks or bookmakers, such as William Hill or Bet365. However, potential sponsorships can still be considered outside the U.S. market. The policy revision is effective immediately.
The PGA Tour’s shift in stance toward legal sports betting follows several other American-based professional sports leagues, which have also begun partnerships with gambling companies after long shunning the industry.
Over the past several months the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball have signed marketing partnerships with MGM Resorts International, and the National Football League reached an agreement with Caesars Entertainment.
“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,” said David Miller, vice president and assistant general counsel for the PGA Tour, via PGATour.com. “We expect these partnerships will help create new golf gaming products that will enhance the in-venue and at-home fan experience.”
Legal sports betting beyond Nevada has exploded since May, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. Since then, operational sportsbooks have opened in Delaware, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia. Many other states are either close to passing legislation that legalizes sports betting or considering doing so.
“As the situation with legalized sports betting in the U.S. has evolved since the Supreme Court’s ruling last May, we’ve seen broader acceptance in sports betting and gaming involvement with pro sports,” PGA Tour senior vice president Andy Levinson said. “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 announced an exclusive deal with IMG Arena in November for IMG to distribute tour scoring data for regulated sports betting and media purposes. Per its agreement with the PGA Tour, IMG is responsible for providing security and data protection, plus controls that prevent the unauthorized use of information by outlets licensing the data.
The tour also contracted with Genius Sports to develop a golf-specific educational program intended to aid players, caddies and officials to identify, resist and report incidents of potential betting corruption. All players and support staff, caddies, officials, tournament staffers and volunteers must adhere to the PGA Tour’s Integrity Program, designed to protect its events from potential betting corruption.
“This is something we are focused on first and foremost -- that the integrity of our competition is upheld,” Levinson said.
The PGA Tour also revised its policy pertaining to distilled spirits brands. Such companies can now sign endorsement deals with players, have its logos visible on the players’ clothing and equipment, and are permitted to run advertisements during network telecasts.