Masters week has come and gone, with Scottie Scheffler continuing his impressive stretch and netting his first green jacket on Sunday.
But the happenings at Augusta National go further than just the outcome of the premier stop on the PGA Tour. They play a role in the sports gambling world, as well.
While Augusta attendees took in the tournament, officials from the club were processing the State Legislature’s failure to pass new gambling legislation. Legislation that would have legalized sports gambling in Georgia.
SB 135 initially contained a referendum to permit the establishment of 18 online sportsbooks in the state. However, it was gutted last minute, with the gambling language stripped.
While the bill as written cleared its committee, the sports betting components were stripped before reaching the House floor. It was a move that has frustrated eager Georgians, as well as the brass at Augusta National Golf Club.
The historically conservative lot quietly signed on in support of passing the legal gambling measure. And added its name to a list of potential gambling licensees, which took some by surprise given how protective Augusta National is of its brand.
It’s for that very reason that a live sportsbook on Augusta National premises in the future is highly unlikely. Notably, decision-makers at the golf club were actively engaged in the politics of it.
And it’s another sign of the national paradigm shift underway regarding legalized sports gambling.
Now even Atlanta Braves president Derek Schiller has voiced public disappointment that Georgia once again whiffed on sports betting.
PGA Tour actively supports legal gambling measures
The PGA Tour has embraced legalized gambling, expressing support for similar bills in Ohio and Arizona. And secured partnerships with sports betting outfits shortly after bill passage.
Scott Warfield, Vice President of Gaming for the PGA Tour, had this to say to Yahoo! News following the outcome in Georgia:
“Like in Arizona and Ohio, we were fairly active in the Georgia (legislative) process given that we have multiple PGA Tour stops there. Obviously, it didn’t work this session. Georgia is a key state given the size, scope and the number of sports fans in the state.”
So while the measure may have failed this go-round, it’s evident that The Tour and Augusta National Golf Club are going to continue on their aims of getting sports betting legalized, state by state.
There’s a market for it.
Multiple outlets reported attempts to get a comment from Augusta National, but they were unsuccessful.
Golf and the culture of gambling
Golf is one of those sports where gambling is a bit baked into the experience.
Amateur competitors bet on friendly games, folks crowd a short par three to put a five or ten down on the closest to the pin. It’s a facet of the sport’s culture that’s developed over decades and is deeply embedded in its fabric.
With that comes a large market to tap into and revenue to be generated.
The PGA Tour has been seeking ways to compete in the market. And searching to uncork new avenues to expose professional golf to new, younger audiences.
They haven’t gone full Happy Gilmore, but with their public backing of legalized gambling initiatives across the country, it’s apparent that they view them as potential monetary — and viewership — boons.
The backing of Augusta National Golf Club, one of the most hallowed and tradition-centric venues in golf, adds a layer of legitimacy to its stance.
If the Country Club Crowd sees it as a win, then surely the John Q. Publics who tuned in at home to watch Tiger Woods compete in The Masters will, too.
Legalization is delayed, yet the desire remains
Georgians’ desire for legal sports betting won’t go away with one failure in a legislative session. But it puts the issue to bed for the year.
Should another measure begin to make its way through the House and Senate, it will likely be 2024 that sports gambling is legalized in the state.
You can expect the PGA Tour and Augusta National to rally for the cause then, as well.
Photo by David J. Phillip/Associated Press