Tiger Woods created a surge in betting on the Masters but still didn’t come closer to winning again

The Masters tournament experienced a betting surge and it's partly thanks to Tiger Woods' return to golf credibility.

Betting on the Masters golf tournament was expected to reach a record $12 million. This could be down to Tiger Woods latest return to form.There's also the fact that the PGA Tour may be benefiting from the legalization of sports betting as the organization aligns with the NBA and MLB on the regulation.

The 2018 Masters is the biggest betting event compared to any of the other golf tournaments on the PGA tour. The estimation that gamblers will stake more than $12 million in Nevada, means it will be a new record.

Punters it would seem just can't resist the lure of Tiger Woods and the chance to lay money on him. Bookmakers have always priced the player up accordingly and to the more astute gamblers some would say at too short odds. Woods was around the 14/1 mark before the tournament started.

“During the last 10 years since Tiger won the 2008 U.S. Open, tournaments he was involved in would see a spike in handle around 20 percent,” Jeff Sherman, golf oddsmaker at the Westgate sportsbook and owner of Golfodds.com, wrote via email to CNBC. This season, in tournaments Woods has played in, there has been an uptick in gambling of roughly 30 percent, according to Golfodds.com data.

More money was bet on Woods to win the Masters than any other player at the Westgate Superbook this year. Woods accounted for nearly 6 percent of all bets, a huge number considering the 87-person field.

The increased betting on golf won't necessarily go away if Woods' doesn't hold up as a player: All his previous comeback attempte have also ended in disappointment.

US Masters 2018 Tournament Result

Augusta National Golf Club

5 Apr – 8 Apr

Completed

# Nat Player Score Hole R1 R2 R3 R4 Total
1 USA Patrick Reed -15 69 66 67 71 273
2 USA Rickie Fowler -14 70 72 65 67 274
3 USA Jordan Spieth -13 66 74 71 64 275
4 ESP Jon Rahm -11 75 68 65 69 277
5 NIR Rory McIlroy -9 69 71 65 74 279
5 AUS Cameron Smith -9 71 72 70 66 279
5 SWE Henrik Stenson -9 69 70 70 70 279
5 USA Bubba Watson -9 73 69 68 69 279
9 AUS Marc Leishman -8 70 67 73 70 280
10 USA Tony Finau -7 68 74 73 66 281
# Nat Selected Others Score Hole R1 R2 R3 R4 Total
10 USA Dustin Johnson -7 73 68 71 69 281
12 ENG Justin Rose -6 72 70 71 69 282
15 ENG Paul Casey -5 74 75 69 65 283
17 ENG Tommy Fleetwood -4 72 72 66 74 284
19 JPN Hideki Matsuyama -3 73 71 72 69 285
32 USA Tiger Woods 1 73 75 72 69 289
36 USA Phil Mickelson 2 70 79 74 67 290

See the full Leaderboard here

With the legalization of sports betting seeming more likely by the day, the PGA is among the pro organizations to declare its objectives. The PGA TOUR will align its strategy with ideas earlier outlined by the NBA and MLB, which includes an integrity fee to be paid to the leagues by the gambling entities.

“The PGA TOUR supports the regulation of sports betting in a safe and responsible manner. We believe that regulation is the most effective way of ensuring integrity in competition, protecting consumers, engaging fans and generating revenue for government, operators and leagues,” it said in a statement provided to CNBC.
“We are aligned with the NBA and MLB in this area, and we are looking for ways to collaborate with legislators, regulators, operators and others in the industry on regulation that serves the interests of all involved,” the organization added.

Legal betting is ‘absolutely, without a doubt' going to be good for golf. The sport as a result could see an even larger audience as a result of a pro-sports betting Supreme Court decision that is being nervously expected.

Sara Slane, vice president of public affairs at the American Gaming Association, said she believes a favorable ruling would help to increase viewership, in a world where people are no longer fond of sitting and watching an event for hours on end.

“Absolutely, without a doubt,” the PGA Tour will be able to increase interest with the legalization of betting, Slane said. In fact, she thinks golf could set the standard for in-game betting. “The PGA is in a unique position with their stats and data, and pace of their play,” Slane tells CNBC.

The PGA Tour wouldn't speculate on increased interest as a result of legalized betting. However, Laila Mintas of Sportradar — the official data partner of the NFL, NBA, and NHL among other leagues — also envisions that with a favorable Supreme Court ruling, golf organization will see the same benefits as the other North American sports leagues.

“Betting has long been associated with increased interest in sports,” Mintas told CNBC. “At its heart, betting is about a sports fan having an opinion on a game and being prepared to risk money on that opinion. It's been proven that fans are more interested in watching and engaging with a sporting event if they have something on the line to win. This leads to more viewers tuning in to watch games and watching those games for longer.”

The U.S. Supreme Court may present a favorable ruling for legalized betting as soon as April 2018, though the Court does not announce the order of the case decisions that it will release. The Court heard the case, Christie vs. NCAA, late last year.

Mintas predicts that a ruling won't be handed down until June when the Supreme Court announces its final cases of the year. “They [sometimes] like to save the biggest decisions for the end,” Mintas said. “Though it's good that they take longer. … the states will need time to get their systems in place.”

 

“Sports bettors are looking for the best odds. [The regulated markets] need to be competitive,” Slane said, adding that the illegal books already have several advantages. “They don't pay taxes. Who knows what they pay employees. They're not held to the same standard,” as the regulated bookmakers, she added.

The debate over an integrity fee will continue after the Supreme Court decision and it will be handled on a state-by-state basis. New York recently introduced a Senate Bill that grants the leagues 0.25 percent of the wagers, rather than the 1 percent asking price from the leagues' proposals.

The sports leagues are working with individual states on regulation. However, the NBA would prefer a uniform approach in regards to coming up with the solution.

“Our preference is a comprehensive federal approach rather than state-by-state regulation, but we will continue to work with all states seeking our input on a regulated framework that protects the integrity of our game and fairly compensates the NBA's teams and players,” Mike Bass, the NBA's Executive Vice President of Communications, tells CNBC in a statement.

The AGA supports the leagues' effort to protect the integrity of their games, and is working with them to understand the betting business. “All of the leagues are trying to get educated on the issues. It would be irresponsible for them not to understand the business,” Slane said.

One of the AGA's main goals is to shut down illegal books, something all parties would benefit from. Transferring the illegal bettors to the regulated marketplace would mean more taxes paid, more interest in leagues, and less crime. However, imposing a set fee may hurt the odds and not give any incentive for bettors to move over to the legal marketplace, something Slane described as already a “low margin business.”

It may even mean legal operators failing as a business.

“People misunderstand the handle. … After paying winners, taxes and other costs, [bookmaking] is about a five percent margin business,” Slane said.

The risk for betting scandals exist anywhere there is legal wagering and there's a cost for policing the activity. “The leagues should get a piece,” Mintas said, while cautioning that the amount they receive shouldn't be so much that it overburdens the bookmakers. “It's fair [for the leagues] to get something.” She added, “[With the legalization of wagering], match-fixing will come more into the daylight. There need to be procedures in place.”

Mintas previously served as the director of sports integrity at CONCACAF, the governing body for soccer in North America, Central America, and the Caribbean. “Match-fixing is a potential threat and it is often related to organized crime,” she said.

While legalized betting benefits professional leagues in viewership goals, a scandal could easily negate any added value.

“Fans will be less willing to engage with a sports league if they don't trust in the integrity of the sport and they feel that the outcome is corrupted. This highlights the need to build trust with fans by implementing integrity services and being proactive on rooting out match-fixing,” Mintas said.

Sportradar collaborates with several leagues, including the NBA, NHL, and MLS, to deter scandals and help them be “prepared for scenarios.” It doesn't partner with the PGA Tour, but Mintas said golf is not immune to the risk of match-fixing.

“Every sports has potential for scandal and golf is also at risk,” Mintas said, adding that sports like “tennis and golf are difficult to investigate.”

Read more: cnbc.com

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