Ohio is one of many states that is currently bouncing around the idea of legalizing sports gambling. There are a couple of bills in the works, with lawmakers undecided on which has more merit. As they hash out their differences and try to make progress, lawmakers with the Ohio House Finance Committee recently participated in a little back-and-forth with the PGA over the question of official sports data and its use by sportsbooks. The conversation was apparently less than amenable.
The PGA has already gotten behind sports gambling, but not necessarily because it believes the activity itself has merit. After it was seen that states would not support sports leagues’ demands for what they dubbed an “integrity fee,” major sports groups went a different route to grab a piece of the action and started to assert that sportsbooks would be obligated to purchase official, league-supplied data.
In Ohio to discuss the state’s House Bill 194, which would pave the way for legalized sports gambling, PGA Senior VP of Tournament Administration Andy Levinson discussed the issue at length. Representing the golfing association and the NBA and MLB, he stated, “Betting is requiring more complex data and we have built the technology and infrastructure to collect that data. It takes an immense amount of technology and manpower to collect accurate and real-time data… We spent an enormous amount of money building these systems.”
Levinson pointed out that the leagues have the right to profit from any services they provide, including those related to sports data, which they have been supplying for years without question. He added that the leagues wouldn’t require the data to be used on straight bets, such as the outcome of a game or match, but that it would have to be purchased for prop bets or in-game betting.
The term “integrity fee” has been loosely thrown around by the leagues since the subject of legalized sports gambling first appeared in the U.S. The leagues already have an obligation to enforce the integrity of their activities and have implemented initiatives for decades that were designed, in theory, to protect the games. Ohio lawmakers wanted Levinson to explain why, if the leagues are seeking the fee in order to protect the games and fans, they wouldn’t continue to offer the data for free, or at least at the cost of producing the data.
Representative Dave Greenspan asked Levinson, “If the altruistic purpose is integrity of the game and not the dollar bill, would you be supportive of that amendment [to offer the data for free]?” The PGA executive could only answer truthfully, acknowledging the fact that the leagues would not support such a measure.
Another Representative, Jim Butler, wanted Levinson to weigh on whether or not the fact that the leagues will receive more viewership through legalized gambling – which translates into more advertising revenue – wouldn’t be enough of an incentive to forego the obligatory purchase of league data. Levinson once again responded negatively, saying that viewership isn’t going to increase immediately, and that any additional ad revenue wouldn’t be realized right away.
But, it will increase – this has already been proven. Just like any new business or operation has a certain ramp-up period, the legal sports gambling industry is the same and the sports leagues are in a position, on top of the millions of dollars they already rake in, to make substantially more money as more states launch their sports gambling markets. The leagues’ attempt at securing an “integrity fee” shows exactly how little integrity they have.