Can Golf Betting Popularity Continue Powering US Sportsbooks To NFL-like Weekends?

Written By Chris Sheridan on June 17, 2020
Golf betting sports betting DraftKings

Americans starved for sports gambling action feasted on golf this past weekend, with several high-profile US sportsbooks reporting some of their best golf numbers ever.

“Just a phenomenal weekend. Comparable to an NFL weekend,” Johnny Avello, DraftKings Sportsbook’s director of operations told TheLines. “We had our biggest handle ever for a golf event.”

That is a mouthful, even in a pandemic.

But it is the pandemic that is, in large part, fueling interest in sports gambling. Bettors, having mostly sat on the sidelines over the past three months, are emptying their wallets on whatever events they can find. And this past weekend, the PGA Tour’s return had them playing sportsbooks especially hard.

“When you look at last year’s majors, The Masters, US Open, British Open and the PGA Championship, this did better than all of them,” Avello said. “Tiger vs. Phil had done big business earlier this year, but this one was our best ever. We passed the previous record by Thursday afternoon. It was huge. A lot of people were interested. It was huge.”

Avello agreed with the premise that too many sports gamblers have been sitting on too much money for too long because of the pandemic.

“Look what has happened over the past couple of years: First you had a choice of going to Las Vegas or betting with a bookie. Then PASPA got overturned, and multiple states legalized it. And then you put a halt to it? And people are betting on ping-pong and Russian table tennis?

“You can’t hold people back for too long.”

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Is this golf betting boom sustainable?

The RBC Heritage will be held this coming weekend at Harbour Links Golf Club in Hilton Head, South Carolina, and with the four major sports still on hiatus because of the pandemic, another banner weekend is expected – especially with Rory McIlroy playing.

It will be interesting to see – moving forward – if sportsbooks can replicate the success they had with the Charles Schwab.

“[Betting on the Charles Schwab Challenge] was two times what we would normally see,” said John Sheeran, director of trading at FanDuel. “It is definitely at an inflated level, which is understandable because people have been starved for three months, so this was very appealing to people who don’t usually bet on golf.

“Is it sustainable? Probably not. So it’s a good story, but the numbers will drop back when golf is going against the NFL.”

At PointsBet, the level of action was comparable to what the book saw for The Match II. Spokesman Patrick Eichner compared the wagering interest to what the book would typically see for an NHL playoff game.

Collin Morikawa, who missed a putt for the win on No. 18 and a 3-footer to extend the match on the first playoff hole, would have cost the book money. As it was, golf betting on the Charles Schwab finished second at PointsBet in total handle behind soccer and ahead of table tennis and MMA.

“As more and more mainstream sports start to return, we do anticipate a slight dip in golf betting interest as clients resume wagering on their most preferred options, such as the NBA,” said Andrew Mannino, Senior Sports Content Analyst at PointsBet. “That said, we do think golf will continue to produce strong numbers and show increases across the board compared to previous years with most PGA tournaments set to feature stacked playing fields featuring many of the world’s best.”

Masters handle may suffer due to betting competition with football

BetMGM saw volume akin to what is “usually seen at a golf major, with the exception of The Masters,” said Jason Scott, VP of trading. “I think the interesting thing was the interest in an event that didn’t have Tiger (Woods), because he is the guy that brings people in.

Looking ahead, Scott said he thought the Masters would draw lower-than-normal interest because it will be going up against major sports, including the NFL and college football.

ALSO READ: Rory McIlroy Among Big Names Playing At Harbour Town

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