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Players welcome new gambling endorsement opportunities

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan laid out the newest steps he’s putting into place to prepare players for legalized gambling’s inevitable impact on professional golf during a players’ meeting Tuesday at the Honda Classic.

A new endorsement policy he released to players this week focused heavily on rules governing deals with casinos and other legalized gambling entities.

“I know there are guys out there who have been approached about deals or have potential deals in place,” five-time PGA Tour winner Billy Horschel said. “Deals are coming, and I think the Tour is being proactive.”

It’s another sign a significant new revenue source is about to open to professional golfers, and that the Tour is focused on safely guiding players through it.

Full-field tee times from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

The new policy allows players to sign sponsorship deals with “gambling companies,” like MGM Casinos or Foxwoods Resorts & Casino, but restricts deals with companies whose primary purpose is sports betting, like Bet365 and William Hill.

Players welcomed the endorsement policy’s guidance into these potentially lucrative new opportunities.

“Jay went over it,” 2010 U.S. Open winner Graeme McDowell said. “We spoke about gambling, integrity and protecting the sport.

“I feel like the PGA Tour has gotten out front in this, with the integrity courses we took online and with helping us to understand what’s going to be OK and what isn’t going to be OK. The integrity of our sport is paramount. He stressed the importance of how we have a collective brand, and anyone who brings any negativity to the brand is going to affect the whole brand. If anything [improper] was to happen, it wouldn’t be good for our sport in general.”

Horschel was surprised that the Tour is classifying entities like DraftKings and FanDuel as “gambling companies,” rather than companies “whose primary purpose is sports betting.” That distinction will place fewer restrictions on fantasy sports companies wanting to sign PGA Tour pros to endorsement deals.

Horschel, however, gets it.

“We have seen what fantasy football, fantasy baseball and these fantasy sites have done for interest in those sports,” Horschel said. “I’m a perfect example. I love NFL football, but in the past I’d probably only watch the one game I’m most interested in. Now, with fantasy football, I’m paying more attention to all the games that I have players in.

“I think this is going to be a positive for our sport, if it’s done the right way, because the integrity of our game is so important.”