A PGA exec walks into a New Jersey assembly meeting and says, “The only way that a bet can be properly settled or a line could be properly set is with the use of real official data.”
No, it’s not a joke. Those were the words of Andy Levinson, senior vice president of tournament administration at the PGA. His sterling quote came before the New Jersey Assembly Tourism, Gaming, and the Arts.
His comments came in the context of a meeting in which he and execs from other leagues had a chance to voice their opinions about a sports legislation bill that was eventually signed by Gov. Phil Murphy on June 11.
Levinson’s hardliner approach to official data won him a cameo in a promo video from USSportsIntegrity.com, a site devoted to pushing for official data. Genius Sports, a purveyor of official data, created the site.
You’ve got to give Levinson some respect for lobbing a quote like that with such confidence when you knew that the committee before him, including staunch gambling supporter Assy. Ralph Caputo, was most likely suppressing titanic waves of laughter (or vitriol) during the monologue.
Levinson’s argument is based on two major ideas.
- First, that there is so much data to be collected in PGA tournaments (144 players, four days, 100 acres walked) that a set system of data collection needs to be put in place.
- Second, without official data, there’s a risk of sportsbooks providing information that is outdated or skewed and intended to undermine the ability of a gambler to make a sound bet.
And it’s not just the gamblers who are at risk, either, Levinson said.
“If illicit interests attempt to exploit betting markets that are not based on real-time data then we are all at risk, whether it’s the leagues, whether it’s the state, the regulators or the operators,” he said.
Despite the presence of this very clear and present danger, the committee seemed unmoved and willing to pass a sports-betting bill that did not include a requirement that sportsbooks use official data.
Perhaps they didn’t fully understand the moral wasteland that lay ahead, in which unscrupulous sportsbooks would provide misleading information, leaving bettors to fend for sound data in a post-apocalypse world.
“This bill does not protect in any way the consumer who’s placing those bets because they have no assurance that the information that’s being used to settle those wagers is actually the official score or the official information,” Levinson pointed out.
After Levinson painted a morose picture of a world without official data, he closed with a plea.
“We sincerely hope that you will consider the protections for consumers and integrity of the games we discussed here today,” he said.
The Assembly sounded ready to wrap up but provided former Mets and Blue Jays pitcher Al Leiter a few minutes to speak on behalf of baseball players.
Is Levinson Crazy?
The motivations behind Levinson’s striking comment aren’t known; only conjecture can produce some scenarios.
- First, official data means that leagues will have to pay for that data and, in order to compensate for those payments, leagues would need some sort of integrity fee to cover the expenses.
- Second, the PGA is truly concerned about protecting their reputation among those betting on their tournaments. Bettors could lose interest if they think the game is rigged, a rigging, Levinson would say, that’s directly the result of unregulated data that sportsbooks provide their bettors.
Other leagues would argue that player’s integrity could be compromised by the appeal of all types of various bets. A golfer who’s out of the running on the final day may be inclined to alter the outcome of his or her final round in order to make more money than he’d earn in prize money.
While there’s probably sincerity in the argument for preserving the integrity of the game, you’d be hard-pressed to believe that other unseen factors aren’t at play.
Caputo Hammers MLB, sets stern tone
Before Levinson went before the committee, MLB rep Bryan Seeley spoke on behalf of the leagues, asking the committee to stop the bill and rework it to include an integrity that would provide the funds the league needs to run its integrity operations.
Caputo would have none of it. His righteous rant against Seeley and the MLB is essentially the seminal battle cry of integrity fee opposition, the furor of which blankets official data, too.
“Why do you think you’re entitled to an integrity fee,” Caputo asked Seeley. “Give me a reason why the state of New Jersey who … your organization fought for eight years or so and tried to kill us from doing something that we had a constitutional right to do — which the US Supreme Court says we’re right — tell me why you’re entitled to an integrity fee? What gives you the right to ask for an integrity fee other than your desire to get additional revenue?”
NJ online sports betting will go live on June 14.