At an informational hearing on Illinois sports betting on Tuesday, lawmakers absorbed a Sports Betting 101 session, during which NBA official Dan Spillane identified a new player on the sideline of the sports leagues: the PGA Tour.
“Although not a part of the NBA family, I just want to note that a representative of the PGA Tour also is in attendance today, and I understand that they also are supportive of the views that [MLB official Bryan Seeley] and I will be sharing with you today” Spillane said during his testimony before the Illinois Senate Gaming Committee hearing, titled “Status and Legislative Regulatory Systems” for sports wagering.
The existence of the PGA representative wasn’t merely a gimmick a la the airmen in A Few Good Men. After the hearing, Legal Sports Report confirmed that the Tour indeed supports MLB and the NBA, whose Spillane and Seeley (as well as numerous other registered lobbyists) have appeared at hearings in multiple states to push for legislation conferring various financial and other benefits to the leagues.
In Illinois, PGA Tour Officially Joins the NBA and MLB in Support of League-Preferred Sports Betting Legislation
A representative for the PGA Tour later gave the following statement (emphasis added):
The PGA TOUR supports the regulation of sports betting in a safe and responsible manner. We believe regulation is the most effective way of ensuring integrity in competition, protecting consumers, engaging fans and generating revenue for government, operators and leagues. We are aligned with the NBA and MLB in this area, and we are looking for ways to collaborate with legislators, regulators, operators and others in the industry on regulation that serves the interests of all involved.
Such alignment indicates that the PGA, which is hosting its marquee event beginning Thursday, The Masters, is on board for the major elements of the leagues’ “Model Legislation.” The major components of that legislation would give the leagues, among other things, (1) 1% off-the-top cut of all wagers placed on sporting events, dubbing a “betting right and integrity fee,” which amounts to 20-25% of typical sportsbook operator revenue (a figure disputed by the NBA!); (2) the exclusive right to provide/sell data to sportsbook operators to grade wagers on everything but final game scores; (3) the right to limit or dictate which wagers a sportsbook can offer, or at least have some say in that decision.
One bill introduced in the Illinois senate sponsored by former NFL linebacker Napoleon Harris (SB 3432) is basically a carbon copy of the league’s model legislation, which would grant the leagues everything they desire.
Meanwhile on Monday in Connecticut, NBA official Scott Kauffman-Ross said the NBA is “willing to accept” a 0.25% fee “in the spirit of compromise.” He noted that “this fee is lower than we originally asked for.”
In effect, the NBA, MLB and now the PGA have officially lowered the bar on that, I would think for all states. Also on the table in the Illinois senate is SB 2478, which would create the Sports Betting Consumer Protection Act, legalizing sports betting in the event that federal law does not prohibit such. Also there’s S3125, which would allow the Illinois Racing Board to adopt rules authorizing sports wagering by organization licensees and inter-track wagering location licensees.
The PGA Had Not Been Completely Silent on Sports Wagering
Before this revelation in Illinois, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said in a 2017 interview with the Golf Channel, regarding the NBA’s views on sports wagering (their general support, not specific legislative asks):
Is it something we look at? Absolutely! We always look at something that other sports are doing, having success with, trends in the industry. It’s something we’ve spent a lot of time on up to this point in time. You look at DraftKings and FanDuel, you look at gaming in the international markets, there’s a lot of opportunity there. There’s some complexity, and that complexity has held us back from moving forward. But we will look at it and have an open mind towards it.
So far, the MLB and NBA have been carrying the torch for all the leagues, and the PGA Tour as well as every other league has been happy to let them do the zig-zagging across the country to wrangle for legislation favoring their interests.
These efforts were notably rejected in West Virginia (over vehement MLB objection), which passed a sports betting bill that gives the leagues no percentage of wagers and no right to control data.
The NFL recently addressed sports betting in detail last week at their annual owners meeting. That conversation focused on regulation and to a lesser extent, monetization. Some owners are glowing over the possibility of enhanced revenues.
But the NFL has not yet entered the legislative arena, at least publicly. Some owners also appear confused over what the NBA and MLB lobbying may mean. Reports Albert Breer of the MMBQ.com of the NBA and MLB lobbying efforts:
If the NBA succeeds? Well, then the NFL will play copycat. Really, as a couple owners I talked to see it, there’s no reason for the NFL to take the lead in this area, just as it didn’t see the need to be the first to put down stakes in Las Vegas. Let someone else do it first, then decide. If the league needs to go, it can use information from within its sport, like the NBA plans to leverage a favorable deal.
But every piece of legislation that includes some form of the “betting right and integrity” fee would pay the respective sports governing body upon which a wager is made. That would include the NFL, which represents about 25% of most sportsbooks’ betting handle.
The handle on PGA Tour events is substantially lower, but a percentage (or a quarter of that) — as well as the exclusive right to sell data — will obviously be welcomed, newfound revenue for every sports league.