Topgolf Seeks Piece of Sport Betting in Deal With Online Casino

(Bloomberg) -- Topgolf, whose upscale driving ranges have expanded to include entertainment of all sorts, is getting in on sports betting -- sort of.

At the company’s two locations in New Jersey, Topgolf will expand its sports bars in partnership with the state-regulated betting outfit PointsBet, adding more TVs and screens with odds. The bars will be rebranded with PointsBet logos, and special gambling offers will be available to Topgolf customers. Neither of the sites will actually take bets, though that’s not necessary anyway in a state that now lets gamblers place wagers on smartphones.

Once a startup aimed at serious golfers, Topgolf has expanded rapidly across the South and Midwest, catering as much to fans of boozy brunches and flatbread pizza as avid players. Today its ball-tracking driving ranges serve as sports bars, pool halls, arcades and music venues.

Topgolf is also one of the first major food and entertainment chains to jump into sports betting, an opportunity that executives hope will enhance the experience for current customers and maybe draw in gamblers who typically watch big games elsewhere.

“This helps highlight that we are a sports bar, not just a place to hit some golf balls,” said YuChiang Cheng, president of Topgolf Media.

Rising Total

Last year, New Jersey became one of the first states to legalize sports betting, and wagers have grown each month since then. In January, the state’s betting houses had their best month ever, taking in $385 million in sports wagers, with almost 80 percent of that coming online.

PointsBet, a legal online bookmaker, isn’t opening a betting location within the driving ranges, and Topgolf has no intention of becoming a sportsbook or acquire a gaming license. All the gambling will happen online, with Topgolf customers able to wager via all the available apps -- such as PointsBet, DraftKings Inc. or MGM Resorts International.

But PointsBet should benefit from advertising within “two of the most trafficked entertainment venues in the states,” according to Johnny Aitken, its U.S. chief executive officer. The partnership is also a model that can be expanded to different types of venues.

“We believe that the modern American sports consumer now enjoys a fully integrated viewing experience, which brings together retail and mobile, and this is a strategy we will look to duplicate in other jurisdictions,” Aitken said.

Growing in U.S.

PointsBet was founded in Australia in 2017, and paid out more than $300 million to gamblers in the country in 2018. It opened a New Jersey office in November and officially launched its U.S. product in January. For now, it’s only in New Jersey, but the company has a partnership with Tioga Downs Casino & Resort in New York and plans to spread into more of the U.S.

PointsBet differentiates itself from its competitors by offering a new type of betting, one that can reward gamblers not just for being right, but for how right they are. The payout for betting a team that wins by 20 points, for example, might be higher than it would be if the team had won by just five. Cheng said that innovation aligned with Topgolf’s own mission of taking a creative approach to an industry in need of change.

Though this partnership only covers New Jersey, Topgolf has more than 50 U.S. locations and intends to unveil similar deals as more states legalize sports betting.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.