The residents of Massachusetts will not be permitted to place wagers on LIV Golf events in 2023 after the local gambling regulatory bodies officially turned down an application to add the Saudi-backed professional golf tournament to the state’s betting catalog.
The sports betting and daily fantasy sports giant DraftKings submitted a request that would allow it to add this year’s LIV Golf events to the golf section of the betting portfolio of Massachusetts ahead of the proposed merger of the league with the PGA Tour, which is expected to be finalized in 2024. However, earlier this week, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission unanimously rejected the proposal, with all five members of the regulator saying they were against the addition of the controversial professional golf tour.
Commissioner Eileen O’Brien explained that, personally, she would feel uncomfortable putting the professional golf tour in Massachusetts’ betting catalog for multiple reasons, particularly in terms of LIV Golf’s financial backing. Another member of the state’s gambling regulator, Commissioner Brad Hill, also shared he was not comfortable with the proposed sports betting catalog addition, especially when the controversy surrounding the tournament is taken into account.
LIV Golf is owned by a sovereign wealth fund run by Saudi Arabia’s Government, called the Public Investment Fund.
Expected Merger with PGA Tour Raises Controversy Regarding Saudy Arabia-Backed LIV Golf League
The Sports Wagering Operations Manager of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission – Sterl Carpenter – has informed the regulatory body’s members that an official request filed by DraftKings sought to see the LIV Golf tour added to the golf section of the Bay State before the 2024 season when it is expected to complete a planned merger with the PGA Tour.
As mentioned above, the Commission’s members mentioned multiple reasons for rejecting the application and keeping the current status quo, including the ongoing antitrust review of the proposed PGA Tour and LIV Golf merger that is being carried out by the US Department of Justice (DoJ). The financial support that the league received from Saudi Arabia’s Government has also been pointed out as one of the main issues for the rejection, as it has faced allegations of multiple violations of human rights.
DraftKings informed the state’s gambling regulator it did not notify LIV Golf about its initiative to accept bets on Massachusetts’ league because it already allows wagering on the tournament in other US states.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is given the opportunity to reconsider its decision on LIV Golf at any time. Reportedly, the regulatory body will be able to revisit the rejection once again in case the planned merger of the league with the PGA Tour is finalized in 2024.
After being involved in a massive controversy involving player defections and several lawsuits for more than a year, both LIV Golf and the PGA Tour said yes to a combination deal in early June 2023. The agreement, which is set to create a new for-profit entity in 2024, put an end to all litigation. However, it seems there is still some ongoing controversy in terms of the deal. On July 8th, former AT&T executive Randal Stephenson stepped down from his position on the policy board of the PGA Tour, highlighting his serious concerns regarding the expected merger with the Saudi Arabian Government-backed LIV Golf.