Rowan Northcott, IMG Arena’s Commercial Partnerships Manager for Golf, was joined by DraftKings’ Head of Golf Trading Stuart Purling and PGA TOUR’s VP Gaming Scott Warfield to discuss why golf has “all the hallmarks” of a perfect in-play betting product.
The trio share their views on why the sport should be a staple in any sportsbook’s portfolio before explaining why data providers, tournament organisers and operators must collaborate further to create the best possible experience for bettors.
Rowan, can you give us an introduction to IMG ARENA and golf?
RN: IMG ARENA signed long-term deals with the PGA TOUR, DP World Tour and LPGA Tour in 2018, 2019 and 2022 respectively, with the vision that golf was a sleeping giant within the sports betting landscape. Since then, we have also been fortunate to add golf’s largest events to our portfolio including the Ryder Cup, PGA Championship and Presidents Cup, underlining our commitment to the sport for the foreseeable future.
Following the establishment of these partnerships we created the Golf Event Centre, a turnkey golf betting solution. The Event Centre uses shot-by-shot data to allow fans to follow every shot in an immersive 3D environment.
Our data hub ingests this shot data to generate an odds feed enabling fans to bet on every shot, from every player, and on every hole, encompassing 30,000+ different markets at each tournament.
Live streaming from two par three holes and an enhanced statistics suite is seamlessly integrated in the product to provide a holistic offering for our sportsbook clients and give golf bettors a one-of-a-kind experience.
What prompted IMG ARENA’s investment in golf?
RN: Golf has all the hallmarks of a perfect in-play betting sport. Before we formally entered this space there were no more than 10 markets available, with settlement at the end of the round or tournament.
With three to five minutes between every shot, golf is perfectly suited to in-play with bettors having ample time to evaluate the market and selection. Each tournament offers around 35,000 shots per tournament, producing a staggering amount of betting opportunities for fans of the sport.
The global nature of golf from every time zone equates to significant “up-time” as sportsbooks have access to live golf from Thursday-Sunday. We knew it would take time for bettors to acclimatise to our offering, but we are now seeing signs, particularly in the booming US market, of in-play golf betting very much taking off.
I often think back to when Scott Warfield, VP of Gaming at the PGA TOUR, and I were at this year’s WM Phoenix Open. Looking on at the famous 16th hole, we saw first-hand how excited fans were about placing bets on which player would hit it closest to the pin.
This sums up the fast-paced and innovative betting activity that we are trying to create that was amplified by one of golf’s most famous tournaments. The excitement created for bettors gives all 35,000+ shots of a tournament its own story.
Is there a correlation between the number of markets offered and in-play turnover for sportsbooks?
RN: Absolutely, there looks to be a clear correlation between the variety of markets offered and the in-play turnover for sportsbooks. Sportsbook operators who have expanded their market offerings have already seen a notable increase in their turnover. As the audience becomes more familiar with in-play golf betting, operators stand to benefit even more.
Early indications look like that the introduction of additional markets has led to an overall boost in handle by more than 10%. What’s particularly noteworthy is that these new markets often operate at high-profit margins, further contributing to profits on the sport.
Once integrated, these markets are live for approximately 100 tournaments each year. With numerous shots per tournament and up to 90 market options for each shot, this translates to a staggering 315 million betting opportunities annually.
The sheer scale of the in-play golf proposition should not be underestimated, and operators who embrace our comprehensive market suite early on will gain a significant competitive advantage.
Stuart, how does the introduction of new markets help DraftKings to drive new revenues in golf?
SP: Through DraftKings partnership with IMG ARENA, we have been able to offer an ever-increasing variety of markets to our clients.
For some time, we have been able to use their excellent in-play prices for the outright, end-of-round leader, and top finish markets but through the increased level of data available to them we are now in the process of rolling out more statistical-based markets for our clients to bet on.
These include betting on markets such as nearest the pin, greens in regulation, fairways hit, player round scores, and other scoring-related markets.
These help drive client turnover and profits through fast resulting markets, whilst also giving the client a greater interaction with the golf throughout the tournament and broadcast.
This area of betting is likely to be the future for golf betting, at least equalling the more traditional markets in terms of turnover.
Scott, now that the Golf Event Centre is established within operators’ platforms and the PGA TOUR’s fans are becoming more affiliated with your tournaments as a betting proposition, what comes next in this journey?
SW: With the Golf Event Centre now available to the vast majority of the betting population, we are focused on growing the reach and engagement of the product through a few key avenues.
In 2023, we brought the Golfbet content brand in-house which, through both our O&O and social properties, is a key lever to engage and inform golf bettors. With the PGA TOUR’s robust ShotLink data and tournament access we are able to bring golf storytelling to life through a betting lens unlike any other platform and are continuing to invest in content production and innovative data tools.
In addition to digital and social innovation, we have an opportunity to capitalize on the intersection of media and betting through our robust media ecosystem, including broadcast and D2C streaming. Over the coming months, fans will continue to see an organic evolution of our live coverage to incorporate engaging decision-making data alongside live competition.
Last, but not least, we are continuously finding new ways to collaborate with our official betting operator partners across our collective platforms to bring world-class golf offerings to sports fans and bettors.
Rowan, what are IMG ARENA’s plans for golf as a betting proposition?
RN: The first challenge is to place the correct insight in front of the customer at the right time to help them make an informed decision. Therefore, we are doubling down on statistics and insights.
Visualisation of these insights is key, so whilst we released our very own strokes gained model this year and challenged our data engineers to make this information digestible. Hence the use of radar charts, percentages, and rankings tables.
Secondly, we want to focus on offering fans the chance to watch and bet, rather than watch or bet. Interactive streaming and bringing all the features of the product into one place is a key focus of ours across a range of sports, not just golf.
Finally, in 2024, we have a host of exciting new features coming next year using AI that should add a completely new dimension for the bettor – again adding to engagement.
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