Gambling in the PGA

What is the Integrity Program?

Recently the PGA announced their new Integrity Program, a beefed-up version of an already established anti-gambling policy. The Integrity Program prohibits not just players from gaming, but also the extended staff: support teams, tournament staff, volunteers and tour employees. In order to control and monitor gambling, the PGA has hired Genius Sports to track gambling in real time. When I heard about the new Integrity Program, my first question was ‘Why now? Was there a sporting scandal in golf that I missed?’ Declan Hill, author of “The Fix” and journalist explains the growing concern nicely in this article published in 2013 by the BBC ‘Match-fixing: How gambling is destroying sport.’ Here is a synopsis of what he reports (paraphrased):

The Real Problem

Popular sports such as tennis and football have numerous match-fixing allegations every year but cheating isn’t a new phenomenon. If you travel to the Olympic Stadium in Greece you will find remains of statues of goods paid for by athletes and coaches who were caught cheating. It’s a character flaw as old as time. What’s different now that makes match-fixing such an issue is globalization. The internet has already transformed the music and travel industry and now it is transforming the sporting industry.

Asian Gambling Market

The Asian gambling market (much bigger than the European and North American markets) has enormous cash to bet. According to Hill, there are about 20 to 30 fixers who travel the world fixing sporting events. They regard themselves as “brokers” and form alliances with local criminals, who in turn form connections with corrupt players, referees and team officials. Since “fixers” inside the Asian gambling market have already destroyed their own sports, they are looking for new game to prey on. Their modus operandi: placing bets in such a way that no one suspects the games are fixed.

The PGA is not concerned that its current player base is gambling and throwing matches. They’re concerned with what they see going on across the pond and in Europe and they are “building a wall” to try to mitigate, and perhaps stop the tsunami of corruption from hitting the PGA. Let’s face it, why would a successful PGA player, or LPGA player for that matter, risk their winnings (potentially millions of dollars) and inevitable endorsements for a small wager? They wouldn’t and that is the point.

The Bottom Line

According to Golflink.com a PGA tour caddy is usually hired by a specific golfer for the duration of the season and earns a salary of $1,000-$1,500 per week. They also earn a percentage, usually around 5 percent, of the player’s earnings. The better the player, the more the caddie will make. The caddie for Tiger Woods earned 1.27 million in 2006 but not all players are as good as Tiger and not all PGA workers make good money.

Criminals play on the vulnerabilities of others, and look for weaknesses that can be exploited. People who may have financial trouble, and limited earning potential are prime targets. Access to a plethora of information makes us all vulnerable because much of our personal information is free gratis to anyone who wants to do an internet search. A “fixer” can easily identify and target someone to throw a golf game by directing them to give erroneous advice or information, or by some other means. The potential for corruption is there, and this is what drove the PGA to make this move now. They are trying to maintain the integrity of the sport at all levels.

Kudos to the PGA for this important move. My next question: Will the PGA establish a problem gambling counsel and a clause in worker contracts that allows them to seek help for gambling behavior without damaging their professional success? Only time will tell.

Story By Heather Rhodes

References

Hill, Declan. February 05, 2013. Match-fixing: How gambling is destroying sport. https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/21333930

Mousseau, Jessica. N.D. Earnings For A PGA Tour Caddy. https://www.golflink.com/facts_8055_earnings-pga-tour-caddy.html

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