Gamblers enjoying this upcoming weekend at one of Atlantic City’s nine casinos may want to spend part of a day attending the ShopRite LPGA Classic about 10 miles north in Galloway.
But even though the LPGA Tour in May announced a partnership with BetMGM to be the first sports betting operator with the Tour, don’t expect to notice that when visiting the grounds of the Bay Course at Seaview. A BetMGM official told NJ Online Gambling that the company “does not expect to have signage or activations at the event,” arguably a missed opportunity given the event’s location in the highest-volume sports betting state in the U.S.
“As a leading sports and entertainment company and already a supporter of women’s golf, BetMGM is uniquely positioned to join the LPGA family as an Official Betting Operator,” Brian Carroll, senior vice president of global media distribution for the LPGA, said in a statement back in May. “Sports betting and digital gaming are key elements of the future of sports, and BetMGM is on the forefront of both opportunities. We are happy to partner with them as we look to provide more opportunities for our fans to interact with the LPGA and learn about our incredible athletes.”
BetMGM has gained the rights to use the LPGA logo and, through its partnership with its parent company, also has access to sponsor relationships with current and former LPGA Tour members such as Danielle Kang, Anna Nordqvist, Natalie Gulbis, Cristie Kerr, and Michelle Wie West.
Do players mind the gambling push?
Former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey sponsored the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, which was ultimately struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court 26 years later. In 2011, the former New York Knick told the Bergen Record of his experience encountering unhappy Knicks fans in spite of the team winning the game. The issue? They failed to cover the point spread.
“I certainly didn’t like the idea of being a roulette chip,” Bradley said.
But some LPGA Tour players have a far different sentiment.
This spring, Kang told Golf Digest, “I believe [legal betting will] definitely help because it’s a huge part of golf. Golf itself is a gambling sport. I want people to have fun playing one on one, head to head, bet on people they want to bet on. I think that’ll bring more interest into the game.”
Mel Reid, another veteran Tour player, added, “People love to bet. They’ll bet on anything. They’ll bet on horses, dogs. Hopefully, we’re not the bottom of the food chain.”
Picking a winner
On Wednesday, BetMGM listed Jin Young Ko as the favorite at +850, followed by Hyo Joo Kim (+1100), Nasa Hataoka (+1600), and Americans Lexi Thompson (+1800) and Kang (+2200). Also at +2200 is Inbee Park. That is expected to be the only wagering available for the event on BetMGM.
Note: “Jersey girl” Megha Ganne is at +20000. But the first-round leader of the U.S. Women’s Open earlier this year also is a 17-year-old high school student, which may cause some to take pause.
Of course, it pays to shop around. But Hataoka is just +1400 on FanDuel and Kang just +1800, so their backers would do better on BetMGM. Ganne’s odds are a touch better on FanDuel at +21000, however.
Barstool Sportsbook has Ko at just +750, but Hyo Joo Kim comes with a more appetizing price of +1200 there.
So the plays from a small sample size of five books, including DraftKings and PointsBet, would be Ko on BetMGM or FanDuel (+850), Kim on Barstool (+1200), Hataoka on Barstool (+1800), and Kang on BetMGM (+2200). Thompson is at +1800 on all five sites.
Inbee Park, at +2800, is a generous Barstool line for an eight-time major winner and former No. 1 player who won an LPGA event in March.
Beyond just picking a winner
Barstool has additional betting on the event, with one wager being whom among Ko, Kim, Sei Young Kim, Thompson, and Brooke Henderson will finish with the best score. Also on the board are head-to-head bets such as Thompson vs. Henderson, best score wins.
DraftKings has the appealing option of picking a player to finish in the top five or top 10, as well as plenty of head-to-head matchups.
The top five or 10 odds are noticeably shorter than men’s odds for top players, with Ko at -135 to finish in the top 10 and Hyo Joo Kim at even money to do so. Inbee Park backers can hedge their loyalty and get +250 to have her land in the top 10 in the field of 132, which includes 12 of the top 20 ranked players on the Tour.
North Jersey golf fans likely know of veteran Marina Alex of Wayne, a former Tour winner who has slipped to 61st in the latest world golf rankings. Alex’s odds to win range from +6500 on DraftKings to a high of +15000 on Barstool. A top 10 play on Alex on DraftKings comes with odds of +600.
Photo of Megha Ganne: Peter Carr/The Journal News