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PGA Tour Edging Into Sports Betting Conversation

Illinois is another state pushing legal sports betting options through legislation. The NBA and MLB are lobbying extensively to promote their agendas. Now, unlike other states, the PGA Tour has attended hearings in support of legal and regulated betting. Does this mean the PGA Tour is attempting to jump on the integrity fee bandwagon?

United States sports gambling is on the brink of change given the outcome of the New Jersey Supreme Court case. The case deals with the constitutionality of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), or the federal ban on sports betting in 46 states. If New Jersey wins, PASPA will likely be repealed, thus triggering multiple states’ sports gambling legislation and introducing legal betting markets within the US. Illinois is trying to get their foot in the door, but so are the major sports leagues.

The NBA and MLB began going around to different states to lobby for integrity fees (a 1% fee of all the total wagers placed paid to the leagues), a data monopoly and approval rights on which events get bet on and the types of wagers placed. No other league has come out in direct support of these 2, but the PGA Tour is now on the radar. A Tour representative recently attended a legislative hearing alongside NBA Assistant General Counsel Dan Spillane and MLB Deputy General Counsel Bryan Seeley. The representative did not address the Illinois lawmakers, but Spillane spoke on how they support what the NBA and MLB are pushing.

The PGA Tour released a statement welcoming legal and regulated betting. They hope to maintain the integrity of their sport (as if it has ever been jeopardized regarding betting) and protect consumers. These sentiments, while wholesome, are a smokescreen for what they really want. The sports leagues are keen on the looming possibility of legal sports gambling. They want a piece of the action from each state offering it, since the market is on a state-to-state level.

Integrity fees, or royalties as they truly seem, are a strong desire for the MLB and NBA. The PGA Tour will likely get behind this idea eventually. They also likely support the idea of data used to determine betting outcomes only coming from league-approved outlets. In Kansas, the NBA and MLB have the option to request that certain wagering types be prohibited for specific events. Expect the PGA Tour to seek out a similar privilege. It is worth noting that the leagues do not get final approval, but there is plenty of room for influence and leverage.

The PGA Tour are in an awkward situation, much like the NFL. The NFL has the Raiders moving to Las Vegas, where legal sports betting is rampant. The PGA Tour has an event, The Greenbrier Classic, being held in West Virginia, a state that could soon feature legal betting. It is hard to justify opposing sports gambling when it is happening at your events. Therefore, it is easy to see why the leagues are moving to gain a lucrative position in each state. Which version of an Illinois sports bill gets passed remains to be seen, but there may be some provisions for the PGA Tour in addition to the NBA and MLB.