LONG ISLAND, New York – The Waste Management Phoenix Open is known for drawing daily crowds of up to 220,000, which makes it the largest American sports event outside of the Indianapolis 500 auto race, and the raucous fans make for a lively television production, especially at the par-3 16th hole, which is surrounded by massive grandstands. But this year’s event running Feb 9-12 features a prominent addition to the TPC Scottsdale landscape that is bound to be a daily focal point for TV cameras and commentators alike.
The PGA Tour and online sports betting partner Draft Kings are building the first-ever sportsbook facility at a PGA Tour venue, and the target date for completion is late September this year, according to Scott Warfield, who is PGA Tour Vice-President, Gaming. The Draft Kings Sportsbook will operate year-round and offer betting on all major sports, but the thinking is that it will be a magnet that draws interest to the Tour and to golf in general.
“We envision 40 feet of video walls, 300-plus seats, luxury dining options, an open-air patio out back with golf cart parking spots so, when you finish playing golf, you can come over and park your cart,” Warfield said, describing the planned amenities. “That facility averages somewhere around 90,000 golf rounds a year. So, this will become, I think, a global golf destination.
“It’s going to be unique. I think Draft Kings is thinking about this as their West Coast headquarters. It will be a showpiece for them and certainly an asset that will differentiate this tournament from all the other tournaments on the PGA Tour. As excited as we are to think about the one week a year where it’s operational during the tournament, it’s also got the other 51 weeks of the year and we think it’s going to be super-elite for golfers.”
The impetus for involvement in gambling by the PGA Tour and other major sports leagues began with a U.S. Supreme Court decision in May, 2018 that gave individual states the right to decide on the legalization of sports betting. At this point, some 34 states allow legal sports betting. But the way the legislation in Arizona was written, in particular, is what presented a golden opportunity for the PGA Tour to build a sportsbook at TPC Scottsdale, which draws more than 700,000 customers during tournament week, making it the biggest golf tournament in the world. Ohio now has similar “market access” to teams and leagues in that state.
“We talked to a lot of different operators, but we have a lot of history with Draft Kings,” Warfield said. “They bought into this vision very early. We bought into their vision of what this could become, and the stars aligned.
“This is not something you’re going to see us do all over the country. It’s the right brand fit, it’s the right tournament, it’s the right market, it’s the right legislation. All of those stars aligned and made it a bit of a ‘unicorn.’ I’m not going to say, ‘Never, ever again.’ But certainly, they will be few and far between.”
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan recently expressed the belief that golf provides unique gambling opportunities. Warfield agreed and noted that more mature betting markets, such as those in Europe that provide “in-play” betting options, such as who might score the next point in a tennis match or the next goal in a soccer game, that might enhance betting options if they take hold in the United States.
“We have something like 30,000 shots per tournament, all of which could be micro-betting opportunities,” Warfield said. “Ultimately, our data that comes off the golf course would allow for every hole, every player, every shot to be wagered on if we want. We want to start with more things like player head-to-head or hole-by-hole and work into it. But it’s very well-positioned for growth.
“If this can keep people around watching our events for an extra 30 minutes or attending two events or watching on Thursday morning from work, you can imagine what that does for the overall business, TV ratings and exposure…I’m confident we can become a top five or six bet-on sport here in the United States, which would be a massive win for us if we get there.”
(Greg Logan, a New York-based sports writer, provides regular golf gambling advice for those who like to bet on golf. But, past performance does not guarantee future success. Greg’s email: email@example.com.)