LIV Golf Bill in New Jersey Moves Forward, Lawmakers Seek Prohibition on Saudi Circuit

Posted on: October 14, 2022, 12:01h. 

Last updated on: October 14, 2022, 10:30h.

LIV Golf might soon be banned from hosting its multimillion-dollar professional golf tournaments in New Jersey.

LIV Golf odds New Jersey Saudi Arabi
Phil Mickelson tees off at the LIV Golf Invitational Series event at Trump Bedminster in New Jersey on Friday, July 29, 2022. New Jersey lawmakers are considering a bill that would prohibit future LIV Golf events from being played in the state. (Image: Getty)

The New Jersey Senate’s State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee is the mover behind the bill. On Thursday, it voted 3-2 in favor of a bill that would strip LIV Golf as a qualifying sports organization to host events within the Garden State. The legislation — Senate Bill 3032 — was introduced in September by state Senators Andrew Zwicker (D-Somerset) and Richard Codey (D-Essex).

The three-page statute seeks to ban LIV Golf from ever again conducting a tournament in New Jersey.

LIV Golf is financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. The fund was created in 1971 for the purpose of investing funds on behalf of the Saudi government. Its finances, estimated to be north of $620 billion, are controlled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Arabian nation’s de facto ruler since 2015.

A professional sport or athletic organization that is operated utilizing funds primarily received from sovereign wealth funds shall be prohibited from hosting professional sport or athletic events in the State of New Jersey,” SB3032 reads.

LIV Golf hosted its third US tournament at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in July. The tournament was won by Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, who collected a $20 million first-place prize.

Tony Finau, who won the PGA Tour’s Rocket Mortgage Classic that same week in Michigan, won the first-place prize of $1.5 million.

‘Sportswashing’ Allegations

LIV Golf has faced much criticism for allegedly serving as a vehicle to improve Saudi Arabia’s global image. Salman, informally known as “MBS,” has been blamed for ordering the murder and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

MBS has also been scolded for mass executions and various other human rights atrocities. The Saudi government has additionally been linked to financing the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

LIV Golf lured many high-profile golfers to its circuit by way of hefty signing bonuses and much richer tournament purses. Notable former PGA Tour members who have left for LIV Golf include Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, and Lee Westwood. DJ and Koepka are former World No. 1 golfers.

LIV Golf has generated plenty of media coverage for its controversial funding and alleged “sportswashing,” and state gaming regulators have been hesitant to allow regulated oddsmakers to take bets on the tournaments. LIV Golf odds have appeared on legal boards in Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, and Washington.

New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement hasn’t yet approved the circuit for sportsbook inclusion.

LIV Golf a Political Football

Like most other subjects in today’s divisive political climate, LIV Golf has stirred strong emotions from both supporters and opponents on both sides of the aisle. With former President Donald Trump a high-profile supporter of LIV Golf, some New Jersey Republicans have lent their backing to the league. Democrats largely have not.

The committee vote this week on the LIV Golf ban was split among party lines, with three Democrats overriding two Republicans. Democratic Senators James Beach (Camden), Patrick Diegnan Jr. (Middlesex), and Zwicker were in the majority. Republican Senators James Holzapfel (Ocean) and Vince Polistina were in the minority (Atlantic).