DraftKings DFS Deal With The PGA Tour Is Really About Sports Betting

The DraftKings dry run with perhaps the only interesting official data product on the market begins now.

DraftKings announced this week a “content and marketing relationship” with the PGA Tour that went live Monday. The deal will brand the operator’s daily fantasy golf product as the tour’s official offering.

This represents an enormous step forward from just two years ago when the tour hesitated to get behind daily fantasy sports (DFS). This branding deal, though, appears largely an exposure play for DraftKings’ sports betting ambitions.

The company’s more lucrative DraftKings Sportsbook continues to push into markets throughout the country. This DFS deal will get that name in front of a vertical thought by many to hold the greatest untapped potential in the new era of legal sports betting.

What’s in the deal for PGA Tour, DraftKings

The most intriguing aspects of the deal between DraftKings and the PGA Tour emerge from the golf side. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but DraftKings reasonably would be expected to pay market rate for the tour’s official data.

Here’s what the PGA Tour will provide to DraftKings for the DFS golf product:

  • Real-time video highlights for golfers in customized lineups.
  • Expanded DFS content offerings.
  • Real-time product enhancements via the tour’s “ShotLink” tracking system.

Making the (Shot)Link here

Pay close attention to the last bullet point: ShotLink collects the PGA Tour’s official data. From the tour’s ShotLink website:

Each golf course is mapped prior to the event, so a digital image of each hole is used as background information in order to calculate exact locations and distances between any two coordinates (e.g. tee box and the player’s first shot or the shot location and the location of the hole).

The ShotLink system is operated by a small staff of PGA Tour employees and a volunteer workforce each week. It normally takes approximately 350 volunteers per event to score the golf tournament.

The tour joined the NBA and MLB last year in lobbying state legislatures for mandated official datausage in sports betting bills.

“The only way to really have active in-play betting, particularly with our sport, is to use official league data,” Andy Levinson, senior vice president of tournament administration, said last year in a Golf Channel interview.

Maybe, but maybe not on in-play

Levinson’s point holds some water, but its leaks readily appear as well.

Trading on specific data points like driving distance and length of putt certainly requires accurate and timely information. Yet, in-play betting on who will win a tournament, who will make a cut, what a player might score on a hole, or how a head-to-head matchup will play out does not need ShotLink to function.

The DraftKings-PGA Tour DFS deal gives both parties a chance to test-drive how official data works within a real-time gaming structure compared to less expensive and exclusive sources.

What they’re saying about the deal

DraftKings highlighted the popularity of DFS golf in its press release:

  • Golf is fourth in popularity among 15 offerings.
  • 30% of its base of 11 million customers have played golf in DFS.
  • DFS golf entries topped 20 million last year.

“We are excited to partner with DraftKings, an industry leader in innovation and fan engagement, in this groundbreaking step for the PGA Tour,” said Luis Goicouria, the PGA Tour senior vice president, media. “The partnership with DraftKings provides the Tour with a unique opportunity to innovate in a new industry and to further engage our fans.”

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