PGA Tour suspends 2 players for gambling violations
The times are a-changin’ in professional golf, and you didn’t need a Friday afternoon announcement from the PGA Tour Commissioner’s Office to know that. But then again, this Friday announcement from the PGA Tour Commissioner’s Office certainly drove home the point.
On Friday, commissioner Jay Monahan announced that the PGA Tour had suspended a pair of Korn Ferry Tour pros, Vince India and Jake Staiano, for violations of the Tour’s gambling policy.
According to a PGA Tour release announcing the violations, Staiano and India were suspended for betting on PGA Tour competitions. Though neither player participated in the events in which he bet, the bets still represented a violation of the Tour’s “Integrity Program,” a set of gambling rules that have been dramatically expanded as the Tour’s betting business has exploded in recent years.
“India is suspended from PGA Tour-sanctioned competition for six months. His suspension began on September 18, 2023 and is through March 17, 2024,” the statement read. “Staiano is suspended from PGA Tour-sanctioned competition for three months. His suspension began on September 11, 2023 and is through December 10, 2023.”
The suspensions are believed to be the first gambling violations enforced by the PGA Tour, and are the first violations announced since the Tour enacted its “Integrity Program” in 2018. The program was created in the aftermath of the landmark Supreme Court decision that same year reversing a nationwide ban on sports betting, opening the pathway for states to legalize betting on their own.
The Tour dove headfirst into the world of sports betting after that Supreme Court decision, welcoming in a host of “official betting operators” that transact on millions in PGA Tour bets monthly. Today, the Tour has agreements with five official betting operators — Fanduel, Pointsbet, Bet365, BetMGM and Betparx — and has a lucrative partnership with a sixth sportsbook, DraftKings, for a brick-and-mortar establishment at the Tour-owned golf course TPC Scottsdale. In addition to welcoming in thousands of players, TPC Scottsdale also hosts the WM Phoenix Open, annually one of the Tour’s biggest events.
The Tour did not release any further information about the nature of the bets placed or violations committed by either golfer, nor did it choose to explain why India’s suspension was twice the length of Staiano’s despite both players violating the same rules. The Tour’s official “Integrity Program” leaves much of the enforcement of gambling violations to the Commissioner’s Office, but does offer a series of “mitigating” and “aggravating” circumstances that could affect the severity of the punishment. Per the guidelines, a player’s punishment may be mitigated for self-reporting a violation, cooperating with an investigation or prior good behavior. Alternatively, a player’s punishment may be enhanced for a variety of reasons, including the amount of money wagered, the bettor’s influence on other people around them, or the intent of the bettor at the time the bet was placed.
Of course, the Tour is not the first nor the only major sports league to jump aboard the sports betting gold rush. Nearly every major sports league has attempted to capitalize upon the Supreme Court decision and ensuing billions that have come pouring into the sports business from betting operators.
The years since have proven lucrative for both sportsbooks and sports leagues, but they have also welcomed a crop of new issues. In just the last few months, the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB have all announced suspensions or bans for players found in violation of sports betting rules. At the same time, many players and agents have criticized league officials across pro sports for failing to properly disclose the nuances of betting rules and violations to players. (For example, Tennessee Titans’ offensive lineman Nicholas Petit-Friere was suspended earlier this year for a legal bet under NFL rules because the bet was placed from within the confines of the Titans team facility.)
The Tour has invested considerable resources into its Integrity Program, and earlier this year announced that the program had been expanded even further. The Tour partners with a pair of firms, U.S. Integrity and Genius Sports, to monitor markets and ensure its players are not betting illegally.
Staiano, a 26-year-old pro, has played on various pro tours since 2019. India, 34, has played on golf’s minor league circuits since 2011.