Yesterday, Massachusetts’s regulator rejected an application to greenlight betting on LIV Golf, a professional golf tour funded by the Saudi Arabian government. The proposal was made by the American gambling and betting juggernaut DraftKings.
Despite DraftKings’ efforts, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) unanimously decided to reject the proposal. As a result, operators in the state will remain unable to offer betting markets for LIV Golf.
The application to permit wagering on the golf event came ahead of an anticipated merger between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour. If everything goes according to plan, the two entities should merge by the 2024 season. DraftKings’ plan was to launch LIV Golf wagering around the same time.
However, the MGC had a number of reasons to reject DraftKings’ application.
The MGC Felt Uncomfortable about the Application
A major reason for the rejection of the operator’s proposal was an antitrust review of the merger by the US Department of Justice. In addition, the MGC cited LIV Golf’s financial support from the Saudi Arabian government as a reason for shooting down DraftKings’ application.
Saudi Arabia, for reference, is under fire for alleged violations of human rights.
Eileen O’Brien, a commissioner for the MGC, expressed her thoughts on the matter, saying that there she would “feel uncomfortable” putting LIV Golf on the catalog in Massachusetts. She added that she would have felt the same way even without the current investigation of the deal by the DOJ.
Brad Hill, another commissioner, echoed her words, saying that LIV Golf is involved in far too many controversies to be comfortably added to the list of legal betting products.
The PGA Tour Hopes Stakeholders Will Understand Its Intentions
In spite of the current controversy surrounding the proposed merger, the PGA Tour is convinced that stakeholders will change their minds once they learn more about the deal. According to the league, the merger with LIV Golf will benefit the sector as a whole while “protecting the American institution of golf.”
Prior to the merger talks, LIV Golf was a major competitor to the PGA Tour. The former league is backed by the Public Investment Fund, which is controlled by Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.
Previously, the PGA Tour was a bitter competitor to its newly-emerged rival. The two parties were previously involved in lawsuits and used to actively criticize one another.
The proposed merger would theoretically bring an end to this schism in professional golf, once again uniting fans and players. However, many believe that Saudi Arabia’s involvement in all of this might be a risk not worth taking.