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PGA Tour embraces sports bettors with action network deal

2nd March, 22:24

The PGA Tour is adding a new way to connect with gamblers, the latest attempt to capitalize on the growth of legal sports betting.

The men's U.S. professional golf circuit announced a partnership on Monday with Action Network, a digital media startup that sells data and analysis for bettors. Under the two-year deal, the Action Network will rebrand its golf content as GolfBet and share it with the PGA Tour for use on its website, mobile app and event broadcasts.

The tour and its other media partners, including Discovery Inc., will also produce content under the GolfBet brand. The Action Network and the tour will share revenue from the joint venture.

"We're looking at this as a content play to both educate and stimulate the betting market here in the U.S. and overseas," said Norb Gambuzza, the tour's senior vice president for media business development. "Golf is open for business for betting."The tour has been figuring out how to benefit from a 2018 U.S Supreme Court ruling that let the sports-betting industry expand outside of Nevada. Fourteen states now have legal betting in some form, with several others likely to enter the market this year. Several months after the ruling, the tour announced a deal with IMG Arena to distribute scoring data for betting purposes. Later this year, it plans to begin making data available, through IMG, that will allow sportsbooks to offer bets on every hole and every shot of its nearly 50 annual tournaments.

"The PGA Tour is one of, if not the most, forward thinking of all the leagues and rights holders," said Action Network Chief Executive Officer Patrick Keane. "They realize that their fans bet when they play golf and bet when they watch the sport."That's why the tour wants "to equip them with the best data, information and tools to help inform how they do it," he said.

The Chernin Group, an investment firm led by former News Corp. President Peter Chernin, formed Action Network in 2017. It sells subscriptions, ranging from $5 to $60 per month, for access to data on betting markets and analysis from a staff of 30 reporters and editors. Golf, said Keane, is the fastest-growing sport on the platform. In the last year, the number of customers who used the site to track the win probability of a golf bet increased threefold.

Action Network's eight golf writers and editors will provide GolfBet with stories, for instance, on longshots who have a chance to pull an upset or which golfers tend to play best on holes with water hazards.

As a nonprofit, the tour has taken a more cautious approach to the industry than some other U.S. sports leagues. Its rules limit marketing partnerships with sportsbooks. The Action Network deal is part of what Gambuzza calls an "arm's length" approach. "We want to lean into this space," he said, "but we want to do it in a manner that is appropriate for our business and for our brand." While Action Network will have access to PGA Tour video and its ShotLink ball-tracking data, it will not be allowed to use the tour logo on its platform.

Action Network will share revenue from any subscribers who come to the service through tour properties. The tour, in turn, will share ad revenue from GolfBet content and sponsorships. In a key detail, the Action Network will also share so-called affiliate fees with the tour -- money that comes from sportsbooks for referring new bettors.

The company has affiliate deals with operators in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Indiana. These pay on a per-customer basis. With GolfBet, if a fan finds the Action Network through the PGA Tour and, from there, signs up for a betting account with one of Action Network's betting partners, the tour will get a cut of the affiliate fee. The other major U.S. sports leagues have so far avoided these types of arrangements.