Sports betting ramps up, showing sport’s potential –

Today’s guest columnist is Johnny Aitken, CEO of PointsBet USA.

After exiting the summit of 86e Masters, marked by Tiger Woods’ triumphant return to Augusta National – and followed by the dramatic end to the PGA Championship – the sports betting industry is ready to channel that same energy into the US Open. Emerging star Scottie Scheffler will likely shine this week in Brookline, Mass., a state that is looking to open the doors to sports betting, providing the perfect backdrop to establish sports betting as a staple in the golf community.

Since the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 2018, sports betting has exploded in the United States. A report by the American Gaming Association (AGA) revealed that in 2021, sports betting generated $53 billion in total wagered. And while sports betting continues to grow in popularity as new legal markets open up, golf remains a small percentage of all betting.

At PointsBet, golf betting has grown 10x since we entered the US market, but it still only accounts for around 5% of all bets, with NFL, NBA, college football and college basketball occupying the first places.

The key to closing the golf betting gap and elevating golf to a premier betting sport lies in live and in-play betting and their potential to attract a new generation of smartphone-equipped sports bettors. Historically, in advanced markets such as Australia and Europe, data has shown the propensity to watch an event increase by up to five times if they bet on it.

Going beyond traditional betting types, such as outright tournament winner, is key to this. We are able to create propositions where punters can engage with the sport throughout the event, at different times, and achieve results in minutes instead of waiting four days for a tournament. If a fan were to log into their PointsBet account throughout the US Open, they would have the ability to bet on around 500 live markets and more.

To put it into perspective, rather than betting exclusively on Cameron Smith to win the US Open, a fan can bet his total score over/under, the performance of each hole as “birdie or better” and matchups. head-to-head for the round against the other players. Over the next few years, we see this extend to the longest drive, closest to the pin, and even if the individual will sink a putt. The creation of these flash betting opportunities can make golf a top betting sport, in line with how football and tennis have been revolutionized by live and in-play micro-markets.

Not only does in-play betting usher in a new viewing experience for fans, it also increases fan engagement and interaction, and creates heightened levels of excitement throughout each tournament. Measuring the performance of the Masters 2022 against the Masters 2020, PointsBet recorded a 166% growth in the in-play handle, showing the vast potential of these markets.

And while in-play betting is sure to shake things up within the golf community, partnerships are what will bring it all together. As the official betting operator of the PGA Tour, PointsBet licenses official live score data, which powers our ability to offer a full range of pre-match and live betting options.

Partnerships are also crucial in the industry’s efforts to educate the masses about betting. Our partnership with NBC Sports gives us direct access to the golf community through ratings integrations on the Golf Channel, direct communication with their talent, and on-air presence for our spokespersons. Adding to the storytelling of key moments in golf with odds integrations is nothing new; for example, the make-putt percentages shown for decades are a version of the odds, i.e. a 25% chance of making a putt is the same as odds of +300 or 3/1 .

The reality is that golf is full of opportunities for sports betting shows aimed at informing fans of betting opportunities and giving them a high reason to tune in and extend their time watching a golf tournament.

We’ve seen firsthand the value that sports betting broadcasts offer fans, broadcasters and our industry through what we call BetCasts. Looking at the NBA-focused BetCasts we ran earlier this year, the trade numbers prove the effectiveness of these types of activations. On average, the 2022 Chicago Bulls BetCasts we featured with NBC Sports Chicago generated 107% more in-play unique bettors and 81% more in-play total bets.

Players, viewers and fans are passionate about the game, and golf’s high viewership provides fertile ground for experimenting with alternative betting-centric television broadcasts and alternative odds-based programming. But to move from words to deeds, we need the support of the major championships to bring the concept to life.

While the roots of golf betting can be traced back to the founding of the game in the Scottish countryside, today sports betting and tour operators are only scratching the surface of what is possible. If charted correctly, golf can pave the way to becoming one of the best sports to bet on – and this week at the US Open, we’ll get a taste of that.

Aitken has led US operations as CEO since 2018 of PointsBet, the official sports betting partner of NBC Sports and an official betting operator of the PGA Tour..

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