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Gambling sponsorship now allowed in new PGA Tour endorsement policy

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The PGA Tour unveiled a new endorsement policy for members during a mandatory meeting on Tuesday at the Honda Classic that covers a dramatically changing sponsorship landscape.

The new policy covers endorsements deals players are allowed to make with gambling companies as well as additional regulations for sponsorship with companies that offer marijuana products, which are not allowed.

The primary adjustments, however, deal with gambling and casino endorsements. Under the old rules these sponsorships were not allowed. The exceptions to the old regulations included deals with casinos “if the sponsorship focuses on non-gambling aspects of the resort” and these deals could not include the word “casino.”

The new policy allows players to “have sponsorships by casinos and other legal gambling companies.” A player cannot, however, have an endorsement deal within the United States with a company “whose primary purpose is sports betting.”

The examples the Tour gave players involved daily fantasy companies like DraftKings and FanDuel. Although the circuit considers both “gambling companies,” neither company’s primary purpose is sports betting so endorsement deals with these companies would be allowed.

However, a sponsorship deal with the online gambling company Bet365 within the U.S. would not be allowed, although the new policy does allow players to sign endorsement deals outside the U.S. with a company like Bet365.

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The change to the policy dovetails with the Tour’s measured move into the gambling space following last year’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down a federal act prohibiting gambling in most states. Last fall the circuit entered into an agreement with IMG Arena to allow the company to sell the Tour’s live data feed to bookmakers outside the U.S., and introduced an integrity program in 2018 to prepare for legalized gambling.

“We have, for the last couple years, put all the systems in place for an integrity program, a monitoring program, get our ShotLink technology in a place where we can be in a position to participate. And the reason that we would do it is that we think that gaming leads to more [fan] engagement,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said last month.

All sponsorships with gambling companies are subject to approval by the Tour.

The addition of a specific category prohibiting sponsorship with companies that create marijuana products, which were not covered under the old policy, was likely in response to a growing legalized market in the U.S. that now includes 33 states and the District of Columbia that have passed laws that broadly legalize marijuana in some form.