Legal Sports Report

New ‘US Sports Integrity’ Website Pushes Leagues’ Vision On Sports Betting Data

PGA Tour sports betting data

A website created by sports data company Genius Sports tries to make clear the need for official data sources as it pertains to sports betting, should it become more widely legal in the United States.

USSportsIntegrity.com also has the support of both Major League Baseball and the PGA Tour, which are partners of Genius. Executives from both pro sports organizations appear in videos on the site.

The background on sports betting data

The leagues are advocating for legal and regulated sports betting in the US, and for inclusion of regulation of “official data” as part of any legislation. The PGA Tour recently joined MLB and the NBA in support of such regulation in states around the country, when they agree with the content of the legislation.

Such data related to sports would be routed through and disseminated via companies such as Genius Sports and its major competitor in the space, Sportradar. One of the two companies partners with most major professional leagues around the world on data and integrity issues.

The need for codifying official data sources has been the source of debate in the US. Nevada sports betting exists without official data sources baked into the laws, and sports betting laws in both Pennsylvania, Missississipi and West Virginia.

Casino interests around the country have taken issue with both the need for official data sources and an “integrity fee” that the leagues desire that would be payable to them via sports betting operators. It is interesting to note that Genius is a member of the American Gaming Association, the casino lobbying group, which opposes any sort of mandate when it comes to official data.

But leagues have made it one of their major talking points in lobbying on the issue of sports betting, and language regarding data appears in bills in several states.

For any of this to happen, however, it would take a victory for New Jersey in its current sports betting case about the federal ban, currently pending a decision from the US Supreme Court.

What’s in ‘US Sports Integrity’

The site advances the idea that official data sources are needed to conduct wagering. There are several white papers and fact sheets created by Genius to that effect.

On the “Official Data” section of the site, Genius writes that “unofficial data threatens sports integrity”:

Sports Data is the fuel that powers the global sports betting market. It must be fast, accurate and 100% reliable.

By mandating the use of Official Sports Data to offer and settle wagers, state legislators can protect U.S. citizens and safeguard sports integrity.

It’s accompanied by a video from the PGA Tour’s senior vice president of tournament administration, Andy Levinson.

The utilization of unofficial data to create betting markets creates a sense of illegitimacy and inaccuracy associated with the sport. If regulation would require more reporting and transparency from the gaming operators, then that would be a positive for all sports.

A regulation mandating the use of official data could ensure the protection of the integrity of the sport so that our fans know that when they’re watching the PGA Tour, they’re seeing the very best efforts of our athletes.

All of this would seem, on its face, to call into question the integrity of Nevada sports betting market.

Data rights are what the leagues want

While the effort here is led by Genius Sports, the website is basically reciting the talking points of the leagues when it comes to sports wagering. Integrity of the game is paramount, they argue, and data rights are necessary to ensure it. (Genius, for its part, is agnostic on the integrity fees the leagues are asking for.)

Of course, a rampant illegal market exists for sports betting already that does not make use of official data sources, and the end of times hasn’t befallen the world of sport. So the idea that this absolutely needs to make an appearance in state regulation is a specious argument.

The leagues would like to further monetize their data and have precedent to do so. Both MLB (MLBAM vs. CBC) and NBA (NBA vs. Motorola) have lost court cases in the past as it pertains to their rights to data, while the PGA Tour has won a case on this front.

So while the debate over how sports betting should be legalized rages on around the country, the subplot of data rights is perhaps just as important.

Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.