Players in wait-and-see mode as PGA Tour embraces sports betting

Jan 30, 2020; Scottsdale, Arizona, USA; A general view prior to the first round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open golf tournament at TPC Scottsdale. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Players at this week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open in Scottsdale, Ariz., are interested to see if there is an on-course impact with NBC debuting a live second-screen experience.

The “NBC Sports Edge BetCast” is the first-ever live betting companion show at a golf event.

A collaboration between NBC Sports, the PGA Tour and sportsbook PointsBet, the simulcast will provide 2 1/2 hours of daily coverage on the Peacock Premium streaming service focused on tournament odds and betting information.

The broadcast will take place from a Golf Channel Live studio set overlooking the famous par-3 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale. Commentators Steve Burkowski and George Savaricas will be joined by PointsBet Senior Editor Teddy Greenstein, a former writer for the Chicago Tribune. The trio will focus on a featured group while also highlighting other action from the tournament.

PointsBet head trader Jay Croucher will contribute from the company’s Denver headquarters. The sportsbook is touting more than 500 “bet types” for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, with the BetCast crew discussing the probability of specific scores and shots throughout the tournament and how players’ odds change during the event.

Defending Waste Management Phoenix Open champion Webb Simpson admitted he is not “well-versed” in the sports betting area or the PGA Tour’s plans around it. He said the only concern he has heard from Tour players is the potential distraction fans gambling on the event may create.

“While we’re playing, is there going to be more chatter before and after shots or before and after made or missed putts, guys out there gambling on us?” Simpson said of conversations with fellow players. “Hopefully the PGA Tour has a very strict plan on that kind of banter from spectators to players. Hopefully they’ll put a strict plan in place that we’re not going to have kind of the comments from the bettors out there during the round.

“That’s obviously something we’ve never dealt with. Hopefully we don’t have to. That’s just one potential problem I see.”

Justin Thomas, the third-ranked player in the world who has consecutive third-place finishes at TPC Scottsdale, said he first heard about this week’s betting simulcast on Tuesday.

“Selfishly, I worry about any sort of sketchiness going on with whether it’s communication with someone that’s out on the grounds and could potentially yell or do something to affect a person that would have, say, a wager or something and that’s a serious, serious concern,” Thomas said. “We’re out here playing — this is our job and we’re out here trying to win golf tournaments and a lot of people are supporting families and supporting themselves.

“I would hope it would never come to that.”

Thomas acknowledged that live gambling on events “seems to be the way” and he’s interested to see how the debut simulcast goes this week.

It’s a reality that Simpson, Thomas and their fellow PGA Tour pros are going to have to become accustomed with. The Tour has been working on technology initiatives the past few years to help serve the oncoming betting industry and Norb Gambuzza, the PGA Tour’s Senior Vice President, Media and Gaming, said the BetCast stream is “another step forward” in the Tour’s betting strategy.

“We are extremely excited to produce and distribute specialized betting content as a companion to our linear and digital coverage with our partners at NBC Sports and PointsBet,” Gambuzza said. “As we continue to embrace sports betting, the Tour will continue to innovate and find new ways to engage fans around the world.”

PointsBet is the official sports betting partner of NBC Sports and has made golf a point of differentiation as it competes against the likes of DraftKings and FanDuel for new users in the rapidly expanding regulated market in the United States.

“The PointsBet team is thrilled to work alongside our partners in NBC Sports and the PGA Tour to bring to life a very engaging and unique sports betting production,” said Johnny Aitken, PointsBet USA CEO. “We all recognize that golf is ripe for sports betting innovation, and at PointsBet, we control our destiny when it comes to building the best golf betting experience in the world with our fully owned and operated technology platform.”

–Field Level Media