This Thanksgiving Weekend, the golf world (and the entire sports world for that matter) is being treated to a first: a Pay-Per-View golf match between two living legends in Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. This match is important for many reasons – the potential of a new way to deliver golf competitions, the 9 million dollar purse the players are playing for, the natural rivalry between Tiger and Phil. However, the betting public will be watching with even more interest, as this represents the first real opportunity to exploit the concept of in-play betting during a broadcast.
Where else but Vegas?
The event is taking place at the exclusive, MGM-owned Shadow Creek course. The fact that Vegas is the backdrop makes it a natural from a gambling perspective, but this is a sport that really could benefit from the increase in viewership that could come from betting on each hole. While there wasn’t anything tied into this match, there could have been some excellent side events held in the casino like a head’s up poker match that could have tied the casino into play even more.
More than just PPV revenue
Yes, the event will be watched from a pay per view perspective, especially for those putting up the purse that the players are competing for. However, the real focus for the fledgling regulated gambling industry will be the amount being bet on each hole. The coverage was clearly skewed towards gambling, with a discussion on each hole about how much was bet (at MGM we assume) on each player winning a hole, and how the result of each hole has changed the probability of the golfers to win the match.
A rising tide floats all boats
One issue that many people, especially those against the idea of sports betting, will have with this event is that there are only a handful of states where betting is legal currently. This means that in the other states, potential gamblers will be looking for places to play and will likely end up playing with an illegal, offshore sportsbook. This, of course, goes against the whole point of having regulated gambling in the United States, so it is very likely that if the effect of The Match is positive for sportsbooks in regulated states, the other states will be speeding up their timelines to bring sports betting to their residents.
There is so much more to come
While the ink is still drying on this match (this was written with the match still in play), there is a lot we can take from this first real foray into betting and live broadcasts. First of all, betting on a live sport (and being able to discuss odds in real time) is something that will no doubt grow the handle being bet on a game. Listening to the commentators discussing where they pre-match action has been, and what action is being placed as this match went on, is exhilarating and will definitely motivate people to pick up their phones and laptops.
Also, there is a ton that these made for TV events could do to enhance the way gamblers interact with the players. Imagine a scenario where Phil Mickelson puts up 250k of his own money against anyone who wants a piece on whether or not he is going to birdie the next hole. Think that is far-fetched? Well, don’t think for a second that smart marketers in the sports betting world aren’t thinking about how to get athletes to interact with gamblers, especially in non-sanctioned events like the one we witnessed at Shadow Creek.
For now, let’s sit back and enjoy the rest of the Thanksgiving weekend, let’s see if there is an appetite for more events like this (spoiler alert: there is) and see how much betting there is on the Tiger vs. Phil competition. We guess that we will see far more of these types of events across many sports in the years to come, and this would be absolutely magical for sportsbooks in the United States and around the world.