The biggest off-course news in professional golf came this week with the official launch of the LIV Golf Tour and the defections from the PGA Tour of stars Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickleson and others, but betting on the upstart venture in the United States is an easy proposition, according to TheLines, which tracks odds in the U.S. regulated sports betting market.
With the first event of LIV Golf’s debut tournament in London underway, legal wagering on the event is limited in the United States despite legal wagering available on PGA Tour events, like this week’s RBC’s Canadian Open. So what’s the difference and why isn’t wagering widely available on LIV golf? It comes down to regulation.
Up until very recently, LIV Golf didn’t have a governing body or an integrity policy, and regulators need to see both when asked to approve wagering. As a result, many books were reluctant to even ask.
As of Wednesday, ahead of Thursday’s debut for the new league, FanDuel was only approved in three states for LIV Golf betting and as a result, the operator chose not to post any odds for the first event. BetMGM had approval in more states but also did not offer odds.
DraftKings was approved in Illinois, Oregon, Ontario, Connecticut, Arizona, and Wyoming. BetRivers/PlaySugarHouse only had wagering available for LIV Golf in Connecticut and Ontario for both traditional golf markets and winner of the four-man team format.
“Sportsbooks couldn’t even provide proper notice to sports betting regulators to approve LIV golf because the new tour was still getting its golf operations organized at the last minute,” said Stephen Andress, managing editor of TheLines. “Asking regulators to allow odds was pointless until LIV established a governing body and an integrity policy.”
Integrity has another meaning for some when it comes to this new threat to the PGA Tour. It is financed by the Saudi Public Investment Fund.
LIV Golf, led by former star Greg Norman, has received plenty of criticism for sportwashing – using hundreds of millions of dollars to lure players to play in the tour in an attempt to clean up the country’s tarnished reputation on human rights. In comments related to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Norman said, “we all make mistakes.”
Mickelson, who removed himself from the public eye months ago after his comments related to the PGA Tour and LIV Golf became public, committed to LIV Golf this week and reportedly will be paid $200 million. Johnson is set to earn more than $100 million guaranteed from LIV Golf.
The PGA Tour announced Thursday that all players committed to LIV Golf have been suspended from further competition. But Johnson, Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and others who have bolted for the new circuit will be eligible to play in next week’s U.S. Open as the major championship is conducted by the United States Golf Association, not the PGA Tour.