Good news for the Garden State: the PGA Tour is on its way back to New Jersey. Recently, the PGA, Western Golf Association, and BMW announced that the BMW Championship is coming to New Jersey. It goes without saying that the famous Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City will host the tournament. While official dates are to be determined, it was stated that the tournament is set to tee off in 2027.
New Jersey is one of the states that allow online sports betting, and the return of the PGA Tour is met with open arms by the many legal NJ online bookmakers active in the state. The Tour is, in turn, embracing these betting operators, allowing the PGA to expand its list of marketing partners in the sector.
The expansion of legalized online gambling in the United States has been one of many controversial topics surrounding golf this year.
The sport is still coming to terms with the merger between PGA and LIV Golf, with a new framework underway with a deadline on the 31st of December 2023. Leading up to the merger announcement, since LIV Golf launched in 2022, the new tour has divided the sport. Many pro golfers abandoned the PGA in favor of lucrative deals in the LIV Golf Tour, fueled by Saudia Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s 800 billion Public Investment Fund (PIF). Both sides had vocal detractors, with many feeling betrayed after the PGA announced their plans to merge with LIV Golf. The decision to join forces has continued to divide pro golfers and fans, with many hating the decision. Until the PGA and LIV architects agree on a new framework, this wound will likely continue to fester. And the longer it festers, the more likely the deal will collapse under its own weight.
Jon Rahm recently spoke out against the LIV Golf format, stating that he is not a fan of how it’s played, and vowed to continue playing and supporting the PGA regardless of the outcome. Rahm has also been vocal about the other topic of this article, relating to online sports betting. He’s said that it’s a genuine problem out on the course. The recent champion of the 2023 Masters at Augusta National, which saw him move to the number one spot of the world rankings, is a prominent figure in the media. He has shared his experiences several times this year, how spectators discussing betting outcomes can distract players from performing. In August, during the BMW Championship in Chicago, two fans were ejected for shouting and hollering gambling context at Max Homa in an attempt to influence the outcome of the wagers they had placed on the event.
Meanwhile, some players like Phil Mickelson are notorious for their gambling antics. The most high-profile incident occurred in 2012 when Mickelson apparently sought to place a $400,000 bet back Team US to win the Ryder Cup. The allegations recently came to light. Essentially, he would have backed his own team, which is outlawed in most sports organizations to safeguard integrity. Modern online sports betting regulations also prohibit players from professional teams from betting in their local sportsbooks. In the end, Mickelson released a statement insisting that he never intended to wager on the Ryder Cup.
I never bet on the Ryder Cup. While it is well known that I always enjoy a friendly wager on the course, I would never undermine the integrity of the game.
I have also been very open about my gambling addiction. I have previously conveyed my remorse, took responsibility, have…
— Phil Mickelson (@PhilMickelson) August 10, 2023
We’ll have to take Phil’s word for it. But these allegations highlight another issue with online sports betting becoming prevalent on the tour. While the top golfers are extremely wealthy, for example, John Rahm won a record $3.24 million first place prize at the 2023 Masters. Further down on the prize ladder, where purses are low and expenses high, integrity issues arise. Most bookmakers, online and offline, legal or illegal, offer a betting market on whether a player will miss the cut. It’s practically impossible to prove if a player purposely knocks two balls out of bounds to deliberately miss the cut and cash out on a bet they’ve made directly or indirectly with a bookmaker. This is an issue of match-fixing, an activity not common in golf, at least of what we know. Outside of golf, match-fixing is prevalent at lower levels in many sports, such as ITF, ATP, and WTA tennis matches. It remains to be seen if golf transpires in the same way. And not much can be done about lager-fueled spectators shouting at the top of their lounges as Rahm tries to sink a 33-foot eagle putt.