PGA Tour Sees North Carolina Sports Betting as a Driver for Growth

When mobile sports betting launches in North Carolina on March 11, basketball and football will quickly become the most popular tastes there.

Unless that is, North Carolina is a complete aberration among the 39 United States jurisdictions with live, legal wagering sports underway.

“If you look market by market with PGA Tour ratings, there’s so many fans in Raleigh, Greensboro, Charlotte.  It’s one of those states that when PASPA was struck down in ’18, you would want North Carolina to go legal.”

The PGA Tour doesn’t need to be the runaway North Carolina sports betting market of choice. Although Scott Warfield – VP of Gaming at the Tour, North Carolina local, and Tar Heel alum – would very much like that. Three events – including the US Open – are scheduled in the state this season. Two more are in South Carolina.

Golf fans are displaying a growing appetite for in-play wagering on a sport steeped in gambling lore. North Carolina represents an opportunity and, to some degree, a crucible for the PGA to prove whether all the investments it made in sports betting as a growth driver were worth it.

The same can be said for NASCAR, whose ancestral roots run deep into North Carolina. The two sanctioning bodies with seemingly the most to gain in their respective backyards landed the top sportsbooks by national market share for access to the state. The PGA Tour linked up with FanDuel; for NASCAR, it’s DraftKings.

“This will for sure be a standout state,” NASCAR managing director of sports betting Joe Solosky told Gaming Today. “I have full confidence that North Carolina is going to over-index heavy on NASCAR.”

For Warfield, who previously held a similar position with the stock car series, North Carolina represents a test and the first tee box in what he hopes is continued expansion into more golfing hotbeds such as California, Georgia, and Texas.

For now, it’s about North Carolina. And Warfield thinks it looks good.

“If you look market by market with PGA Tour ratings, there’s so many fans in Raleigh, Greensboro, Charlotte,” he said in an interview with Gaming Today. “It’s one of those states that when PASPA was struck down in ’18, you would want North Carolina to go legal.”

NC sports betting PGA TOUR

The Carolinas, in general, and North Carolina specifically, are hotbeds of PGA interest:

  • PGA Tour top-tier events: RBC Heritage, Harbour Town Golf Links, Hilton Head, S.C., April 18-21; Myrtle Beach Classic, The Dunes Golf and Beach Club, Myrtle Beach, S.C., May 9-12; Wells Fargo Championship, Quail Hollow Club, Charlotte, N.C., May 9-12; U.S. Open, Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, Village of Pinehurst, N.C., June 13-16; Wyndham Championship, Sedgefield Country Club, Greensboro, N.C., Aug. 8-11.
  • Other PGA Tour events in North Carolina: PGA Tour Champions – SAS Championship (Cary); Korn Ferry Tour – UNC Health Championship (Raleigh)
  • Self-described golfers in North Carolina: Approximately 1.1 million out of a population of about 10.55 million.
  • Golf courses in North Carolina: Approximately 550 golf courses, ranking in the top ten nationally.
  • PGA Tour event attendance in North Carolina last year: Wells Fargo – Approximately 200,00; Wyndham – Approximately 120,000
  • North Carolina digital traffic to PGA Tour website: Raleigh and Charlotte were both top 50 digital markets globally in 2023.
  • North Carolina is one of five states with two cities in the top 50 digital markets.
  • More than 12% of North Carolinians claim to have watched the PGA Tour in the previous 12 months (a 108 index compared to the US General Population).
  • North Carolina is in the top 25% of states in self-identified TV consumption rates of the PGA Tour.

“I spent most of my life there,” Warfield said. “I got a pretty good sense of how that market will react, what they’re asking for, how DFS performed there for golf. So it’s encouraging that cities like Charlotte are close to how many golf fans are in South Carolina. I think you’re going to see a surge there.”

North Carolina’s sports betting launch will also come well before the series swings through the state.

READ MORE: Inside the PGA Tour’s In-Play Golf Betting Plan

Arizona, Ohio Offer Clues on North Carolina Performance

Warfield said that the amount wagered on PGA Tour tournaments held in states where sports betting is legal has increased by 55% this year. In-play wagering has increased significantly, he added, and roughly equals the amount now wagered pre-match.

That’s what the Tour wants.

For the second consecutive year, Warfield was heartened by the frenzy of betting activity around the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale during the WM Phoenix Open in February. Enhancing and promoting in-play markets through its partnership with IMG Arena has been a focus for the Tour as it attempts to appeal to a future fanbase.

That activity captured by GeoComply offered a tangible snapshot as full state-wide figures about the appetite of Arizona golf bettors is impossible because of the sparse reporting of the Arizona Department of Gaming.

Florida, with more golf courses than any other state – around 1,450 – and four top-tier Tour events figures to offer even more of a boost. But the evidence remains anecdotal as the Florida Gaming Control Commission reports no sports betting figures because Hard Rock Bet’s monopoly is run by the Seminole Tribe of Florida under the auspices of a tribal gambling compact.

Warfield remains encouraged about “innovating and growing” with Hard Rock Bet, hopes it will eventually incorporate in-match betting, and says the state “probably represents the biggest opportunity for us in terms of handle growth.”

“You can’t go anywhere in the state without hearing or seeing people talk about golf, so it’s an important one for us,” he said.

Golf States and the State of Golf

North Carolina was a crucial get for the PGA Tour, the reward for years of lobbying and planning.

Crucial states remain on the wish list, however. Chief among them, because there has been legislative progress in the past two years, is Georgia. The Tour has joined major local professional sports teams in Atlanta in pushing for the advent of legal sports betting, and although progress remains slow, it’s palpable.

This starkly contrasts two other coveted markets: California and Texas.

“I am cautiously optimistic about both Georgia and Texas,” Warfield said. “There are challenges, just like all the other states have had their challenges. But I think we made great progress last year in Texas, getting [a bill] out of the House. I think we will make more progress in 2025. I think Georgia has shown good progress even just in the last couple of weeks.”

Warfield believes the methodical construction of a Southern sports betting bloc would spur even a state as conservative and gambling-averse as South Carolina to legalize. While some studies have shown the populace increasingly amenable, Gov. Henry McMaster is staunchly opposed.

“If you think about the sports fandom in the state of South Carolina, it’s NASCAR and it’s golf. And I think those two industries are very important to the state of South Carolina and vice versa. I don’t think we’ll be talking about South Carolina and legalization four or five years from now.”

“If you’re able to get Georgia on board, I think that provides additional pressure on a state like South Carolina because you are now surrounded by legal betting in North Carolina, Tennessee, and in that case, Georgia,” Warfield said. “We’ve seen that in other places around the country when neighboring states go live and the impact that can have.

“It is a bit smaller than the others were talking about, but if you think about the sports fandom in the state of South Carolina, it’s NASCAR and it’s golf. And I think those two industries are very important to the state of South Carolina and vice versa. I don’t think we’ll be talking about South Carolina and legalization four or five years from now.”

The 55% handle increase, with just 14 of 54 events being held in legal sports betting jurisdictions, encourages Warfield about what the entry of North Carolina and other key states could mean. That figure increased to 18 this year.

“If you were able to add Georgia, that has three, Texas that has four, you really start to get more of the calendar that has legal sports betting, and just by osmosis,” Warfield said, “you’re going to see an increase even in the outrights and the head-to-head matchups even before you start talking about making the product and the offering more diverse and having more in-play. You’re just going to see a growth and even that prematch.”

But for now, North Carolina.

“I think we’re trending pretty nicely,” Warfield said.

About the Author
Brant James

Brant James

Senior Writer
Brant James is a senior writer who covers the sports betting industry and legislation at Gaming Today. An alum of the Tampa Bay Times, ESPN.com, espnW, SI.com, and USA Today, he's covered motorsports and the NHL as beats. He also once made a tail-hook landing on an aircraft carrier with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and rode to the top of Mt. Washington with Travis Pastrana. John Tortorella has yelled at him numerous times.

Get connected with us on Social Media