The NBA, PGA Tour and Major League Baseball received an interesting assist from overseas this week, as the English Premier League voiced support for those leagues’ stances of sports betting.
An ESPN report cited the general manager of Football DataCo, which holds the rights to EPL soccer data, as backing the recent push by the NBA and MLB to get rights or integrity fees and data control in state-level sports betting legislation.
“We would not see why there would be an issue about sports getting a return from betting,” Ford told ESPN. “We’d echo some of the high-level statements the NBA has made. If someone is making money off us, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be interested in that and why we shouldn’t have some level of involvement in the commercial return.”
What the leagues are trying to accomplish
If the US Supreme Court opens the door to sports betting nationwide in the New Jersey sports betting case, at least a handful of states with laws on the books could open shop quickly. And many more have bills under consideration.
That’s why the leagues are developing their stances now, and even making moves like today’s restructuring of daily fantasy sports partnerships to better position themselves for a potential repeal of the federal sports wagering ban.
The NBA and MLB are lobbying legislators in those states for a cut of potential revenue in the form of integrity fees, as well as a series of additional concessions:
- League-approved data sources, notably for in-game wagering
- Input into what bets sportsbooks can accept, if not outright control
- Collaboration with operators on integrity policy and regulation
PGA Tour officials backed the position of those leagues earlier this month in a hearing about the potential for Illinois sports betting.
Why does the EPL care what US does, and vice versa?
Betting is woven into the fabric of the EPL. Fans in the UK are blitzed by betting company signage around the pitch and fans can wager during the game right in the stadium. While the EPL has some interest in the US, it pales in comparison to the major leagues that are based here.
If sports betting spreads in the United States, the EPL could try to join the parade of leagues seeking a cut of revenue. Short of that, the Premier League could seek to control the use of its data, although previous attempts to do so by American leagues have generally been struck down in court.
Having a precedent for leagues having some control over data rights in the US would be considered a win for all of them. The need for official data sources remains a primary question in the legalization debate. Of course, there are reasons to listen to the EPL, as it’s existed and cooperated in a regulated market for a long time.
There are also some questions raised by the EPL’s involvement in the debate. Integrity fees and data rights — as written into some bills — could be given away to a league like the EPL that isn’t even based in the US. It’s not clear if lawmakers around the country have contemplated this possibility.