LIV Golf, PGA Tour Merger Complicates Betting Rules For States

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A merger between the PGA Tour and new Saudi-backed archrival LIV Golf has states rethinking their golf betting rules, a move most sportsbooks are welcoming.

Massachusetts and Indiana are among several states where wagering on LIV Golf events is prohibited, creating a mishmash of where sportsbooks can and cannot offer certain golf betting events. In addition, sportsbooks have been unable to offer odds on popular golfers who defected to LIV including Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson for many highly watched tournaments ever since the PGA Tour decided to ban them.

“We have our PGA Tour, which is offered in all states and a significant market for us,” said Kevin Lawler, Head of Trading at PointsBet. “On the other side, we have LIV, which is allowed in some states, but not others, and then we have majors where we can or can’t do certain things with LIV players depending on the jurisdiction. We’ve had to adapt quickly.”

Golf betting markets to be added?

For the rest of 2023 the tours will remain separate, per reports.

Should the leagues merge into a new, still-unnamed company, many states would need to ensure that entity is an eligible league on which to bet.

Getting regulators to add a new league or market is not always easy, but hopefully the Tour’s reputation and use of official data can make it a smooth transaction, Lawler said.

Massachusetts, Maryland expect interest

Despite its reputation as one of the strictest sports betting regulators in the country, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission did not intentionally prohibit LIV Golf. It simply was never asked to offer it.

A request from BetMGM, PENN Entertainment, and WynnBET did not include LIV for eligible golf events, per MGC spokesperson Thomas Mills.

“I suspect there will be interest in wagering on whatever this new organization develops into and that will likely come before the Commission,” Mills said.

MGC Chair Cathy Judd-Stein brought up that concept during the commission’s Wednesday meeting but said, “We’ll just wait and see what happens.”

Maryland allows LIV betting, but “if they form a newly named governing body, it’s possible that we’ll need to add that to our catalog,” said Seth Elkin, a Maryland Lottery and Gaming spokesperson.

Indiana denied LIV requests

Indiana denied requests from BetMGM and Caesars to offer LIV Golf betting, but is open to reviewing new wagering requests, said Jennifer Franks, an Indiana Gaming Commission spokesperson.

She did not specify why those requests were denied but added that the commission weighs whether other jurisdictions offer certain leagues and if any issues have arisen in doing so.

Regulators from Ohio and Colorado, where LIV betting is allowed, and New York and Pennsylvania, where it is not, declined to comment.

Some eager to add golf betting markets

Several of the nation’s top sports betting operators are excited about a more blanket set of wagering rules governing the two leagues.

Matthew Wall, Trading Golf Lead at BetMGM, acknowledged the merger would allow more of the top players to compete more often and the sportsbook to offer more markets. The sportsbook will post markets on all approved events, he said.

“LIV didn’t see as much betting as the PGA has, so getting those guys back in the PGA can only be good for us,” Lawler said. You’re gonna have Brooks [Koepka], DJ and Bryson [DeChambeau] on a week-to-week basis now. I’d expect handle and client interest to increase.”

FanDuel is one of the only sportsbooks that has not offered betting markets on LIV despite state rules. A spokesperson with the sportsbook declined to comment on the merger.