Massachusetts will not add the LIV Golf Tour to its sports wagering catalog, despite the Saudi Arabian-backed property’s proposed merger with the PGA Tour announced.
At a meeting on Tuesday, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted against DraftKings’ request to add LIV Golf to the state’s sports betting catalog. It was the first time the MGC voted on a LIV Golf offering, although it had publicly discussed the issue earlier this year.
Commissioners cited a current federal probe into the proposed merger and concerns about financial backing of LIV Golf as reasons for the vote.
“For a lot of reasons that have been in the press in terms of the financial backing of the league, I feel uncomfortable putting this in our catalog – notwithstanding the (federal) investigation of the merger,” Commissioner Eileen O’Brien said before voting against the change.
Concerns have been raised with Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth funding of LIV Golf. The proposed merger with the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, announced June 6, came as a surprise to many who had followed frequent antagonistic exchanges between the PGA and LIV in the press and the courts over the past year.
Vote May Be Premature
DraftKings made the request to add the LIV Golf Tour to the Massachusetts sports betting catalog on June 22. According to the request, DraftKings wants to have the LIV listed as an offering before the proposed merger is final. The merger is expected to be finalized in time for the 2024 season.
But a vote to add LIV Golf to the catalog now would not be the final vote on the matter in Massachusetts. MGC Sports Wagering Operations Manager Sterl Carpenter told the commission on Tuesday that a merger would require future action from the MGC.
Five of the LIV’s 14 events remain on the 2023 schedule.
“Your vote today is on it being accepted now as it takes place currently, which is separate from the PGA Tour,” Carpenter told the commissioners on Tuesday. “If a merger happens in the future, you would then need to review, and direct the Sports Wagering department (to) review, see all of the new terms, and present to you again.
“Right now we need to just look at this as this is being brought to you to be placed in the catalog as it is currently governed,” said Carpenter.
MGC Commissioner Brad Hill said he believes there is time to take another look at LIV Golf for the 2024 season.
“And I think we need that time,” he said today. “But I am not comfortable putting this in our catalog right now with all the controversy surrounding it.”
Federal Probe Into PGA Tour-LIV Golf Merger in Progress
DraftKings offers betting on LIV Golf in other states, with wagering previously approved in at least six states, including Maryland, Connecticut, and Illinois. Other sportsbooks that have allowed betting on LIV Golf in past tournaments include Caesars Sportsbook, Bet365, and BetMGM.
FanDuel has noticeably excluded LIV Golf from sports betting markets so far.
A federal probe is now open into the proposed PGA Tour and LIV Golf merger by US Sen. Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Chair Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). According to a June 12 press release from Blumenthal’s office, the subcommittee has “demanded communications and records from PGA Tour and LIV Golf regarding their planned merger.”
The probe focuses on details behind the proposed merger. Those details include “how any newly formed entity will be structured and operated, including how PGA Tour intends to preserve its tax-exempt status,” per the release.
Blumenthal has been an outspoken critic of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. The June 12 release mentioned what Blumenthal calls Saudi Arabia’s “deeply disturbing human rights record at home and abroad” and concerns that the proposed merger may pose a threat to US interests as reasons for the probe.
“(It raises concerns) about the Saudi government’s role in influencing this effort and the risks posed by a foreign government entity assuming control over a cherished American institution,” the release stated.