DraftKings Inks Deals With MLB, PGA Tour

For sports fans and bettors alike, we are in a slow period of the sports calendar. The NBA and NHL playoffs have ended and the NFL and college (American) football seasons are still about a month away. The only two major sports going right now – in the United States, at least – are baseball and golf. But that is all good for DraftKings, as it has signed new business deals with both MLB and the PGA Tour.

MLB is for Sports Betting

The agreement with Major League Baseball was announced on Thursday, making DraftKings an “Authorized Gaming Partner” of the league. The deal gives DraftKings access to MLB logos and official league statistical data.

The graphics make DraftKings’ offerings look better, but the main thing here is the data. By being able to use MLB’s official data, DraftKings will be able to improve its live, in-game wagering. These types of bets have become increasingly popular, as bettors enjoy being able to have continue betting during the game, rather than making one or two wagers pre-game and then waiting for the outcome. That more immediate “sweat” with in-game betting can be more fun for customers and clearly more lucrative for DraftKings, as more wagers are placed.

Using the official data feeds makes DraftKings’ responsiveness with its live offerings faster.

“DraftKings is proud to be designated as a Major League Baseball Authorized Gaming Operator,” said Ezra Kucharz, DraftKings’ chief business officer, in a press release. “This deal speaks to the commitment we have to our customers and sports leagues alike while providing the safest and most entertaining American-made sportsbook. As a result of this agreement, our customers will experience enhanced live wagering offerings for all MLB games.”

PGA is for DFS

The deal with the PGA Tour is not a sports-betting one, exactly, but it is pretty obvious that sports betting is the ultimate goal of DraftKings here. On Tuesday, DraftKings was named the first “Official Daily Fantasy Game of the PGA TOUR.” DFS contests on DraftKings will be called “PGA TOUR DraftKings Fantasy Golf.”

One big reason that no site had been dubbed the “official” DFS site of the PGA Tour is because the Tour actually had a rule against this until February. Previously, official marketing partnerships and the like were not permitted with daily fantasy sports companies.

The key to this partnership is “real-time product enhancements via the PGA TOUR’s proprietary ShotLink powered by CDW data feed.”

ShotLink is a computerized system that tracks data such as the distance a golfer hits the ball, the distance to the hole, where specifically the ball is on the course, and the pace of play. From the ShotLink website:

Each golf course is mapped prior to the event so a digital image of each hole is used as background information in order to calculate exact locations and distances between any two coordinates (e.g. tee box and the player’s first shot or the shot location and the location of the hole).

The ShotLink system is operated by a small staff of PGA TOUR employees and a volunteer workforce each week. It normally takes approximately 350 volunteers per event to score the golf tournament. This equates to approximately three man-years of effort (between staff and volunteers). The annual ShotLink volunteer count on the PGA TOUR is approximately 10,000!

My first thought was, “Volunteers! People don’t get paid to do this?”

If you have watched any golf tournaments on television, you have likely seen these volunteers on the course with the players, lugging equipment up and down every hole. Some use laser sights (they look a bit like binoculars) to measure distances, while others input information on a tablet. Volunteers will gradually be fazed out to an extent as cameras are installed on courses, replacing the need for all of the laser spotters. Many courses already have cameras around the greens to produce ShotLink data.

ShotLink shouldn’t be extremely important for DraftKings’ DFS products, but it will be key for a future sports betting offering. In-game betting on things like shot distance works much better with real-time data feeds from the PGA Tour; getting this agreement going now will let the two parties see how everything works with DFS first.

In an April column on Golf.com, Alan Shipnuck described his experience as a ShotLink volunteer, specifically how nerve-wracking and tough it was without prior training.

Matt Troka, a vice president at CDW, told him of the impact of volunteers being focused on the job at hand, “When you look at the role of data in sports betting, this tech becomes universally important. When you incorporate gambling into this thing, you have to ensure the real-time accuracy of the system.”


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