This 41st edition of #FreeDataFriday is absent any direct information on horse racing, but rather, is focused on a major competitive threat which is growing, unsurprisingly, with modern technology, data and a better understanding of what customers want.

In an interview with Sara Slane, founder of Slane Advisory and former senior vice president of the public affairs for the American Gaming Association, the PGA Tour’s senior vice president of business development, Norb Gambuzza, outlined the growth in wagering opportunities the sport is expecting. Here are a few key excerpts from Gambuzza’s comments:

“Sports betting may very well be the most promising catalyst that rightsholders have seen in a very long time…

“Producing the right content and distributing it in the right places is fundamental to this strategy. Understanding what various segments of our fanbase want is also critical. We are extremely excited about the partnership we formed earlier this year with The Action Network which is producing a full complement of content to help fans bet on golf under a new brand called GolfBet…

“Betting is endemic to golf — it just is. Whether we’re talking about fans around the world betting on the best players in the game or when you’re out playing a $5 Nassau on the weekend with your pals, it has been part of this great game for generations…

“With about 150 players on the golf course each week across four rounds, each of our roughly 1.2 million shots taken across a typical season is a betting/engagement opportunity. Through our partnership with IMG ARENA, we will soon be launching golf’s first in-play, hole-by-hole, shot-by-shot betting product which we believe will totally revolutionize how fans bet on golf.”

The key to enabling golf’s betting expansion is data, and golf has a pretty good approach (pun intended) with that too. Golf.com covered part of this in September 2019. While the Tour is focused on the collection of data, sold to betting operators to enable markets and providing accurate results, the trickle down to customers, using data to inform their wagering decisions, is obvious.

“With the advent of betting and ShotLink+, the motion tracking of balls in and around the green using a three-camera computer system (similar cameras will soon replace fairway lasers to track tee shots and layups), reliable data will be more vital than ever. It’s why the Tour’s technology partner, CDW, is updating ShotLink’s infrastructure with a ‘hyper-converged’ platform that more tightly integrates the traditional server/network/storage system.

“When considering the role of data in sports betting and gambling, we understand that the uses of technology are always evolving, but it is universally important that consistent, accurate and real-time data be available,’ says Matt Troka, CDW’s senior vice president of product and partner management.”

This modern approach is not just engaging customers of traditional golf betting, but the vastly expanded options for golf’s daily fantasy customers too. And as is often the case with nearly every other betting-related endeavor outside of horse racing, data for bettors is far more affordable, and sometimes, yes, even free. Whether it is data sets on Kaggle and DataGolf.com, or a more tailored $250 annual subscription service via Fantasy National Golf Club or amongst other options, the differences with racing are clear.

ESPN’s David Purdum reported on June 23 that MGM experienced eye-popping growth, year-over-year, in golf betting on the RBC Heritage – a nearly 4,000 percent increase in betting handle and over 5,000 percent up in the number of bets from the previous year. Racing’s very focused handle increases, in the absence of other sporting events, were paltry compared to such figures.

Horse racing has some wonderful qualities. Its very nature, as a sport grounded in wagering to sustain those that participate in it, presents an endless stream of challenges from a betting perspective. Modernization is needed to compete and survive in this marketplace, alongside other wagering endeavors which are investing to present a product to customers, replete with data, that engages in ways a customer in 2020 would expect.