PGA Tour Commissioner Supports Legal Sports Betting, Explains Reasoning

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan has made his first public comments confirming the Tour’s position on sports betting. Jay Monahan spoke with USA Today on Wednesday and explained that the Tour supports legalization and wishes to influence legislation in such a way to benefit the professional major sports leagues, the players and the fans.

Monahan told USA Today that he wants to take advantage of opportunities for the Tour if the Supreme Court rules the federal sports betting prohibition unconstitutional when it issues its decision in the New Jersey sports betting case.

He cited several reasons for the organization’s support including opportunities for the Tour, a chance to “better ensure the integrity” of golf competitions and opportunities for the Tour to “reach a much broader audience” due to the natural tendency of people to watch more sports when they have money on the line.

Jay Monahan put it this way in an interview with USA Today:

“You have to keep in mind that betting is happening right now, with illegal black markets and offshore betting, and we don’t have any exposure to what is happening. If it’s legalized and regulated, you get to a point where you can better ensure the integrity of your competitions. You can provide adequate protection for consumers, which doesn’t exist today. There are commercial opportunities for us, which is one of the things we’re here to do, which is to create and maximize playing and financial opportunities for our players.”

Monahan also told USA Today that the tour “has invested considerable time and money studying sports betting for several years.” He revealed the Tour has met with regulators, betting operators and other industry operators in an attempt to get a complete picture of sports betting and the opportunities and risks it presents.

This is the first time the PGA Tour has issued public comments on sports betting, but they did give a statement to Legal Sports Report last week signaling their intent to support legalization and regulation.

It was predicted at the time that the PGA Tour would likely seek an integrity fee, certain data control rights and the ability to provide input on which types of bets may be offered by operators. In his interview with USA Today, Jay Monahan confirmed the Tour will be seeking to sway lawmakers to include those concessions in any legislation drafted to regulate sports betting.

PGA Seeking Integrity Fee and Other Concessions

USA Today reports the Tour will be seeking an integrity fee, input or control over the types of wagers offered by operators and it wants operators to only use official data provided by the PGA Tour. It is no longer a question that the PGA Tour has thrown in its lot with the NBA and MLB on these points.

The NBA was the first league to propose the idea of an integrity fee and began lobbying lawmakers to add it to their bills. Representative Alan Morrison of Indiana was the first politician to comply with the NBA’s wishes and amended his own sports betting legislation to include an integrity fee payable to the leagues.

Integrity fees have proven quite controversial due to the large percentage of sports betting revenues they represent. The leagues have been calling for a fee equal to 1% of all wagers taken, which represents a large chunk of actual revenue. That debate is still ongoing. Some lawmakers are complying with the leagues’ requests, others are pushing back and likening it to a money-grab by billion-dollar organizations.

The PGA Tour also supports legislation requiring sports betting operators to use official data sources approved by the leagues. So, rather than letting operators choose which data they use to convey the outcomes of wagers, operators will be forced to use official data feeds.

The leagues say official data is necessary to protect the integrity of the game, but their arguments on this front are iffy. Realistically, they likely view official data as an easy new revenue stream to be earned from operators in addition to the integrity fee.

Additionally, the PGA Tour would like to have either complete control or at least the ability to provide input to governing bodies over which types of bets operators are able to offer to customers. This desire is also linked back to integrity. The major sports leagues believe some types of wagers (especially those that can be affected by a single player without it looking too obvious) increase the risk of corruption.

Monahan told USA Today in his interview that the PGA is “being very thoughtful.” The league says it wants to be prepared, to protect the players and protect the constituents who are involved. The league also notes that there are also commercial opportunities it would like to pursue in a regulated and legal environment.