PGA Tour Commish Has “Open Mind” About Sports Betting

This week, new PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan sat down with the Golf Channel’s Rich Lerner to discuss a number of topics, including the Tour’s relationship with Donald Trump, its stance on North Carolina’s HB2, and most notable for readers of this site, his thoughts on sports betting and daily fantasy sports (DFS). In his very brief answer, Monahan expressed an openness about fans putting money on the game, but was non-committal beyond that.

Monahan was named Commissioner of the PGA in early November by the PGA Tour Policy Board. He previously served as the Tour’s Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer. He officially took the helm on January 1st, 2017.

The following was the complete sports betting portion of the interview, starting at the 5:50 mark:

Rich Lerner, Golf Channel: I was reading an article about the NBA. They are embracing sports betting. It’s a huge revenue stream. Is that something you would look at in the future, or is that absolutely off-limits?

PGA Commissioner Jay Monahan: Is it something we look at? Absolutely. We always look at something that other sports are doing, having success with, trends in the industry. It’s something we’ve spent a lot of time on up to this point in time. You look at DraftKings and FanDuel, you look at gaming in the international markets, there’s a lot of opportunity there. There’s some complexity, and that complexity has held us back from moving forward. But we will look at it and have an open mind towards it.

If there is anything to read into there, it is thin. As mentioned, Monahan was quite non-committal in his answer, simply saying that the PGA Tour is willing to keep an open mind and look at sports betting. He also mentioned DraftKings and FanDuel; FanDuel does not offer golf contests, but DraftKings does.

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan Photo credit:

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan
Photo credit:

Looking at my handy-dandy DraftKings app, the site’s headline PGA contest this week (starting today, as four-round golf tournaments begin on Thursdays) is a $20,000 guaranteed prize pool contest for a $3 entry fee. As of writing, there are about 7,000 entries with a cap of 7,843. Participants select six golfers to comprise their teams, fitting them within a $50,000 salary cap. Golfers earn points for how they do on each hole (or lose points, as the case may be), where they finish in the tournament, and for extended good play, such as a streak of birdies. Compared to other sports, it is really quite simple.

Even with Monahan’s unexciting answer, it is at least nice to see the commissioner of a major professional sports organization not dismiss sports betting and fantasy sports out of hand. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, for instance, continues to try to have us believe that his league wants nothing to do with sports betting, even though he and everybody else knows that sports betting and fantasy football drive a significant portion of the league’s interest. Additionally, most of the league’s teams have some sort of relationship with either DraftKings or FanDuel.

The one commissioner who has come out strongly in support of sports betting is Adam Silver, who has been commissioner of the NBA for three years. Some of his first comments in favor of sports betting came in September 2014 when he spoke at the Bloomberg Sports Business Summit, saying that his league would “ultimately participate in” a sports betting industry if it expands past Nevada. More than that, though, Silver acknowledged that sports betting was a thing that existed and that *gasp* people actually enjoy. And if people are having fun with it, they will likely watch more basketball.

“If you have a gentleman’s bet or a small wager on any kind of sports contest, it makes you that much more engaged in it,” he said. “That’s where we’re going to see it pay dividends. If people are watching a game and clicking to bet on their smartphones, which is what people are doing in the United Kingdom right now, then it’s much more likely you’re going to stay tuned for a long time.”

In November 2014, Silver took it a step further and wrote an op-ed for The New York Times in which he said that sports betting should be legalized nationwide:

There is an obvious appetite among sports fans for a safe and legal way to wager on professional sporting events. Mainstream media outlets regularly publish sports betting lines and point spreads. Voters in New Jersey overwhelmingly voiced their support for legal sports betting in a 2011 referendum. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey recently signed a bill authorizing sports betting at local casinos and horse racetracks, a law the N.B.A. and other leagues have opposed — and a federal court has blocked — because it violates Paspa.

Outside of the United States, sports betting and other forms of gambling are popular, widely legal and subject to regulation. In England, for example, a sports bet can be placed on a smartphone, at a stadium kiosk or even using a television remote control.

“Congress should adopt a federal framework that allows states to authorize betting on professional sports, subject to strict regulatory requirements and technological safeguards,” Silver added.

There is quite a gap between the PGA’s Monahan’s attitude towards sports betting and Silver’s, but at least Monahan says he is keeping an open mind.

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