PGA squabbles with Ohio lawmakers over sports betting and ‘integrity’

When regulated sports betting became a reality in the United States, the professional sports leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, NCAA, and PGA) were put in an awkward situation. On the one hand, they’d squawked for decades that sports betting of any kind would destroy the fundamental integrity of their games. On the other hand, they know that that sports betting brings in plenty of potential new revenue streams and they’d like to be a part of the action. So what could they do?

In their wisdom, the leagues approached lawmakers in states planning regulated sports betting and demanded a percentage of the action that could be used to enforce increased standards for keeping an eye out for match-fixing. These fees, called integrity fees, were little more than thinly veiled shakedown schemes and the states have rejected them wholesale. But that hasn’t stopped the leagues from trying.

In the most recent case of integrity fever, representatives of the Professional Golf Association sparred with Ohio lawmakers over the true motivation behind integrity fees. During a meeting of the Ohio House Finance Committee to discuss sports betting and the use of league data for in-play wagering, Danielle Boyd, head of government relations for William Hill US pointed out that forcing bookmakers to use league data would result in a monopoly for the leagues.

When a representative of the PGA pointed out that the fees were necessary to enforce the integrity of their products, Representative Dave Greenspan called his bluff saying, “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 rep could not offer an answer to that question.

Ohio, like every other state that’s embraced regulated sports betting, decided not to pay the leagues to enforce integrity in their own games.

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