Augusta National Quietly Seeking Georgia Sports Betting Opportunities –

Like everyone else, Augusta National Golf Club officials were tuned in to Tiger Woods earlier this week, waiting to see if he would compete in the Masters. But they were also keeping an eye on developments unfolding 150 miles west of the state capital in Atlanta.

During the Georgia legislative session, which ended early Tuesday morning, state legislators watched closely legislation that would have allowed nine local professional sports teams and affiliated venues to obtain mobile sports betting licenses. Augusta National was among the potential licensees.

Although the law failed to make the cut this year, the addition of Augusta National to the list was a notable addition considering the club has a firm grip on its brand and image. The Masters itself epitomizes this, as the famous tournament has minimal corporate sponsorship and could generate millions annually if it went to market with its TV rights rather than its handshake deal with CBS Corp.

Augusta National hasn’t commented publicly on gambling, but joining the PGA Tour to legalize sports betting in Georgia is the clearest move we’ve seen. Like other sports leagues, the Tour has embraced sports betting.

“With current development, almost every marquee sports venue in the country will have a sportsbook or sportsbook lounge,” said Lloyd Danzig, managing partner of sportsbook investment firm Sharp Alpha Advisors.

Parent company Augusta National Inc., which has not responded to requests for comment, will have at least another year to identify potential business opportunities. Sources who have worked closely on the legislation say Augusta National officials did not specify plans they would carry out if actually granted a license, but wanted to be tacitly included in the language of the bill.

The PGA Tour said it will continue to advocate for legalizing gambling in Georgia despite the failure of the bill.

“Like Arizona and Ohio, we’ve been pretty active in the Georgia (legislative) process because we have multiple PGA Tour stints there,” said Scott Warfield, theTour’s vice president of gaming. “Obviously it didn’t work in that session.”

Georgia is one of the most attractive untapped sports betting markets in the country, and operators are craving the chance to take advantage of low tax rates and a competitive business environment. FanDuel Group last year announced plans to open a new hub in Atlanta, the fourth-largest DMA not currently offering legal sports betting.

“Georgia is a key state given the size, scope and number of sports fans in the state,” Warfield said, adding that market access is just part of the tour’s overall playing strategy.

Just last month, BetParx gained access to mobile sports betting in Ohio thanks to a partnership with Dublin’s Memorial Tournament. TPC Scottsdale in Arizona is scheduled to open a DraftKings-powered sportsbook next year following the state’s passage of a sports betting law last April.

Unlike TPC Scottsdale, the PGA Tour does not operate the privately owned August National and does not host the Masters or the other three major championships. Thus, all obligations to carry out sports betting transactions would fall on the home club.

While golfing fans could only dream of a sportsbook at Augusta National, sources say a retail location at the seasonal course is unlikely; Betting establishments are usually open all year round and must be open to the public. However, selling an exclusive Masters betting sponsorship to a provider and generating a passive income stream is a future possibility.

While the Masters has historically not prioritized revenue-generating opportunities over tradition, Augusta National’s members, which include Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, are influential businessmen and women . They didn’t make it to the top of their industry and left money on the table, and betting is woven into the fabric of golf history.

“[Augusta] is conservative, but in the midst of it, people are constantly playing golf and betting,” said Lee Berke, President of LHB Sports, Entertainment & Media Inc. “Skins-Game didn’t come out of nowhere. They’ve been around almost as long as they’ve had the game (golf).”

Although Georgia’s betting law fell through this time, potential licensees, including Augusta National, will continue to make their swings. The Masters has become more progressive in recent years, and the ability to encourage fan engagement while generating additional revenue could be the next notable way the tournament is adapting with the times.

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