Ohio Lawmakers, PGA Executive Debate Requiring Data for In-Game Sports Betting

Posted on: October 9, 2019, 11:00h. 

Last updated on: October 10, 2019, 10:12h.

Ohio lawmakers and a PGA Tour executive held a riveting back-and-forth discussion Wednesday regarding the rights over the use of data for scoring sports bets.

Ohio state Rep. Dave Greenspan, sponsor of a sports betting bill in the legislature, asked a PGA Tour executive during a hearing Wednesday if protecting the integrity of the game was so important, would leagues offer in-game data to sportsbooks for free. (Image: WOSU Radio)

The Ohio House Finance Committee’s sixth hearing on House Bill 194, one of two sports betting bills lawmakers in the Buckeye State are contemplating, dealt primarily with the request by professional sports leagues to include a requirement that sportsbooks purchase official data for in-game betting.

Andy Levinson, the PGA Tour’s senior vice president of tournament administration, spoke on behalf of a coalition consisting of his organization and MLB and NBA. He said books that offer in-game betting opportunities without official league data are either pirating it or potentially using incorrect information to score bets.

Betting is requiring more complex data and we have built the technology and infrastructure to collect that data,” Levinson said. “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.”

While Levinson said sports leagues have been capturing the data for years, and well before the Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act last year, he told lawmakers that the organizations have a right to charge companies that make a profit off a product they provide.

The leagues also have no issue with sportsbooks offering traditional betting options on the outcome of games themselves without using official data. However, any proposition or in-game betting should require a data subscription, Levinson added.

Only two states, Tennessee and Illinois, have passed a sports betting law that included a requirement for all licensed sportsbooks to purchase official data to grade bets.

Integrity At What Price?

That’s when the discussion took a philosophical turn.

Lawmakers questioned Levinson why leagues, which claim to want to protect the games for fans, wouldn’t offer the data for free if that was the primary concern. Or, failing that, at the price it costs the leagues to produce the data.

“If the altruistic purpose is integrity of the game and not the dollar bill, would you be supportive of that amendment?” asked state Rep. Dave Greenspan (R-Westlake), HB 194’s co-sponsor.

Levinson said the leagues would not support that.

State Rep. Jim Butler (R-Oakwood) asked if the leagues don’t benefit already from increased viewership from bettors tuning in to watch the outcomes of their wagers. Levinson said that betting, mostly illegally, has been going on for years and that legal sports betting would not – at least initially – attract more viewers to increase rights fees or advertising rates.

About the Bill

HB 194 would allow sports betting at the state’s casinos, racinos, and veteran or fraternal lodges. The bipartisan bill, sponsored by Greenspan and state Rep. Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati), would levy a 10 percent tax on gross gaming receipts.

The bill’s financial note estimates the state would receive $9 million in tax revenue by the 2022 fiscal year. The bill calls for 2 percent of proceeds to go to a gaming addiction fund, with the rest of the money going toward the Ohio Lottery’s education fund.

The Finance Committee has yet to take a vote on the bill.

In the state Senate, Ohio lawmakers in that chamber are considering a bill that would give control of sports betting to the state’s Casino Control Commission.