The Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) Tour has made history by becoming the first-ever pickleball organization to enter the sports betting market. They have partnered with FanDuel Sportsbook to allow fans from 10 legalized betting states in the U.S. and one Canadian province to place bets on PPA Tour events, starting with the PPA Kansas City Open (August 24-27, 2023). The states and province where pickleball betting is available include Louisiana, Connecticut, Illinois, Wyoming, Michigan, Tennessee, Colorado, Washington, Maryland, and Ontario. The PPA Tour anticipates that other U.S. online sportsbooks will offer pickleball gambling once they receive approval in more states.
Betting options include standard markets (like moneylines and over/under), along with additional choices such as predicting match scores. The PPA Tour’s partnership with Genius Sports will facilitate data and live video feeds to participating sportsbooks.
Per PPA Tour Founder and CEO Connor Pardoe, this move is a “monumental moment” for both the PPA Tour and the sport of pickleball, as this ushers pickleball’s entry into the world of sports betting. Considering that:
- About 1-in-5 adults in America have personally bet money on sports in the last 12 months (whether with friends or family, in person at a casino or other gambling venue, or online with a betting app) (per a Pew Research Center survey);
- In 2022, there was a total of $93.2 billion wagered in the United States and a total gaming revenue from sports betting (i.e., wagers minus winnings) of $7.5 billion (per the American Gaming Association); and
- There are nearly 50 million pickleball players in the United States (per the Association of Pickleball Players);
gambling in pickleball could certainly change the landscape of the sport.
With that said, there will certainly be issues for the PPA Tour and the sport of pickleball to wade through in order to ensure the integrity of the game. Looking to sister sports like tennis (which is the fourth most popular sport to bet on), there has been a long history of match fixing and other issues related to manipulating outcomes of a game due to bets placed. Pickleball has the potential to have the same popularity and issues that tennis has faced. This is because one player/person/referee/etc. has the potential to impact or influence the outcome of a game. Plus, there are potential misaligned incentives on the court, as the maximum amounts able to be wagered exceed the tournament prize money for the average pro player (*to note, however, since gambling has entered the sport, the pro tours and leagues have drastically increased salaries and prize money in a bidding war over pro players).
To help tackle the integrity issue, the PPA Tour has established a Sports Betting and Integrity Policy. All players, staff, and officials associated with the PPA Tour must undergo a course on betting integrity. Further, players, staff, and officials are prohibited from talking about issues that could influence bets. However, more steps likely need to be taken, which include live streaming all matches (not just those on the main courts), having live scoring of all matches (without any delay of inputting a score), developing a better review and challenge system for line calls, etc.
How gambling affects pro pickleball (or vice versa) will evolve over time. But, early reports after the first weekend of gambling have the public coming out on top (per pro player AJ Koller’s reporting on Instagram, the public won $77,000—with Illinois, Tennessee, Colorado, and Michigan winning the most (in that order)).