The U.S. PGA Tour is ready to roll the dice and unleash betting from next year’s tournaments to reach new markets, as announced to AFP by Commissioner Jay Monahan.
Gaming laws are easing across the U.S. and golf has been planning for regulated sports betting for years, Monahan said in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of Japan’s inaugural Zozo Championship.
“You’ll start to see product in the market place next year,” he said, with the primary goal of attracting new fans and prolonging interest over a tournament day that can last up to 12 hours or more.
The $9.75 million Zozo Championship, which started Thursday in a star-studded field that included Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, is the middle leg of the latest Asian swing of the Tour, worth nearly $30 million in prize money.
It started at the $9.75 million CJ Cup won by Justin Thomas last week in South Korea and finishes at next week’s $10.25 million WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai.
“It’s all about engagement,” said Monahan of the plan to introduce gambling.
“When done right, it gives fans the opportunity to engage with your sport over a longer period of time and have more interest in what’s happening across the entire player field.”
Monahan is well aware that, because of match-fixing scandals that have plagued sports like cricket and soccer, betting within the sport would need strict supervision.
“It’s legalised in a lot of international markets and we’ve put the right systems in place, both in terms of an integrity programme and monitoring activity,” explained Monahan, who has been in charge of the world’s biggest golf tour since taking over from Tim Finchem in January 2017.
– ‘We’ve done a ton of work’ –
“As it is becoming legalised by state in the US, you can either participate or not, and we feel smarter to be participating… versus let others control it,” he added.
Monahan would not divulge on exactly what products could be unveiled, but he said they were being developed in an international partnership with IMG Arena, sports and betting specialists, with highest priority being integrity.
“Once you start to participate, you can eliminate negative bets,” he said. “We’ve done a ton of work to make certain that that’s the position we’re in.
“I think when we come forward, you’ll see that we’ve taken significant steps to address that. We’re going to participate in a thoughtful way and I’m really comfortable with that.”
Japan is a golf-crazy country, and huge crowds have flocked to Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) outside Tokyo, to see Woods, McIlroy and home-grown hero Hideki Matsuyama for the new $9.25 million event.
This whets the appetite for Tokyo’s next year’s Olympics, Monahan said.
“I’m excited to come back here and see golf in Tokyo at an Olympic Games, I think it’s going to be as passionate a following as any sport’s going to have,” said Monahan.
“There was so much positive energy around the 2016 Games.
“The players that competed loved it. We’re not going to be playing opposite the week of the Olympics like we were in 2016,” he added, underscoring the importance of the Games now in golf’s global calendar.
And he had good news for Japanese golf fans — the US PGA Tour is here to stay, beyond the Zozo Championship’s initial six-year deal.
“When we make a commitment to bring a new event to a market, that’s a commitment that is permanent,” Monahan said
“Our intention is to never leave Japan, to always have a PGA Tour event in Japan from this day forward.”