A ‘Lifeline’ for NJ & PA Sportsbooks, Golf Returns This Week
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Golf, the sport that gave New Jersey and Pennsylvania sportsbook customers hope and opportunities throughout the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, returns this week.
The PGA Tour comes back from holiday break starting on Thursday with the Sentry Tournament of Champions at the Plantation Course at Kapalua in Maui, Hawaii. With it, golf betting is back.
From the cancellation of The Players Championship after one round on March 12 to a return to the greens in early June, the PGA Tour used a revised schedule (with no interruptions), heavy safety protocols and virtually no fans to have a continuation of the sport in 2020.
Nineteen players and caddies who played or carried the bags in the revised 26-event schedule last year tested positive and the positivity rate for both groups tested onsite was .003.
“When the PGA Tour came back as one of the first ‘regular’ sports after the entire sports world shut down, it provided a huge shot in the arm for sportsbooks and I really feel benefited the sport when it comes to betting moving forward,” said Thomas Gable, director of race and sportsbook at the Borgata Casino and Resort in Atlantic City. “Bettors were starved for familiarity and even if they didn’t regularly bet golf before the pandemic, this gave them some sense of familiarity and they responded by driving handle for regular tour events to previously unseen levels.
“Certainly when other sports returned (baseball, basketball and hockey), the golf handle took a bit of a hit, but remained above usual pre-pandemic levels. I’m hopeful that we will continue to see good engagement on the regular season tour events.”
Rush Street Interactive’s BetRivers and SugarHouse, who are well-positioned in the New Jersey and Pennsylvania markets, saw substantial increases of 60-80% on handle and bet count on many major tournaments.
“The popularity of golf in the U.S. is undeniable, in terms of playing, watching and betting. There is good reason to believe betting on golf will thrive in 2021. The sport very much lends itself to betting with a wide variety of markets both pre-match and live,” RSI chief operating officer Mattias Stetz said. “Enthusiasts have ample opportunity to wager at both sites prior to PGA Tour events, while the live product is more popular for those who want to have fun while watching and see a quick turnaround on their bets.”
New Bettors on Golf
PointsBet, which became an official sports betting partner of NBC Sports in late August last year and is also the exclusive provider of odds, props and trends for the Golf Channel, saw major interest in golf wagering.
“Golf was one of our lifelines when sports were largely on pause during the spring of 2020. Along with UFC and table tennis, golf was absolutely one of the top drivers in betting action,” PointsBet sports analyst Michael Korn said. "Once the NBA/MLB, and eventually the NFL, started up again, golf action tapered a bit as we expected. That said, golf did make a lasting impression and captured the long-term interest in sports bettors who perhaps had previously never bet on the sport before. It then came back in a very big way via an incredible handle on the Masters at the end of the (year) in November.”
The proof is in the increase in PointsBet golf numbers from 2019 to 2020:
- Overall golf handle increased by 300%.
- Overall number of bets placed on golf increased by 450%.
- Number of unique clients betting golf increased by 500%.
- Total live handle increased by 350%.
- Total live bets increased by more than 500%.
- Total live unique bettors increased by more than 600%.
- Live golf betting accounted for roughly 32% of the overall handle in 2020, compared to just 27% in 2019.
- “Player hole performance” markets were a big driver in increased live handle, which more than doubled from 2019 to 2020.
Interest Should Continue to Grow
Gable of the Borgata said regular tour events saw increased betting interest last year.
”The betting handle for the majors is always good, but there were definitely more than a few people out there who were converted into regular golf bettors due to the circumstances in May and June 2020,” he said.
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Korn of PointsBet said golf’s popularity with bettors should only grow.
“Given that the NBA/NCAA basketball seasons are now in full swing, along with NFL playoffs rapidly approaching, golf action may take a slight backseat in the coming months. We do, however, expect to see the overall golf growth continue to build as we expand into new jurisdictions,” Korn said. “Likewise, golf’s presence during the pandemic did capture a long-term and loyal betting audience, which we expect the sport to reap the benefits of for years to come.
”If you’ve ever bet on golf, I’m sure you can attest — it is a terrific sport for wagering, be it pretournament or live during play.”