Legal Sports Report

The PGA Tour Claims Unofficial Data Used By Sportsbooks Is ‘Stolen Data’

PGA Tour betting data

Sportsbooks using data not provided by the PGA Tour is stolen data, Senior VP of Tournament Administration Andy Levinson said recently.

Most in the sports betting business and the legal communities would strongly disagree.

The PGA’s standpoint isn’t the least surprising based on recent efforts. The league joined forces with Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League to tell states that the use of official league data should be required in their sports betting regulations.

Levinson relayed the PGA’s standpoint at the Sports Betting USA conference earlier this month. Dr. Laila Mintas, of Dr. Mintas Consulting, responded with logical resistance.

PGA Tour’s stance on data

Levinson cautioned that the use of unofficial data could lead to real risk for the PGA Tour. Therefore, any sportsbook offering in-play betting on PGA tournaments should be required to use official league data, in his view.

Companies send untrained scouts to collect data on issues they may not fully understand, he said.

Other companies repackage information posted online, like at the PGA’s official website, and sell that to sportsbooks. That creates a delay in the information Levinson said.

Of course, the PGA Tour has millions of reasons to take this stance. All leagues are looking for the best way to monetize their “official data” now that sports betting is becoming more widely legal.

The PGA Tour announced it would provide its data through the ShotLink system to IMG Arena to be repackaged for an in-play betting product that delivers that information in real-time to sportsbooks in a compelling and viewer-friendly package.

Levinson’s point wasn’t completely without merit. Sportsbooks would get access to millions of markets over the course of the PGA Tour season from the multiple data points pulled from each shot, he said.

It could be difficult to accurately get all of that information – distance to the hole, where the ball lies, etc. – in a timely enough manner to make it useful for sportsbooks. It’s an extremely expensive process to collect that data accurately and that cost should be reflected in the price of the data, he said.

Mintas’ response

Mintas pulled no punches on stage as she noted her personal opinion of calling official league data a money grab.

She “100% doubts” not using official data is an integrity risk. Otherwise, how could countries throughout Europe that don’t require official data survive offering sports betting for as long as they have without big integrity issues, she added.

Distributing the data only to IMG Arena creates a monopoly, Mintas said. That same sentiment led to pushback in Ohio for Levinson from Rep. Jim Butler, noting capitalism and free markets end with monopolies.

Requiring official data prevents the sportsbook operator from using what it may feel is the best data, she added.

Where official data can benefit operators is through differentiation, Mintas said. Getting access to trademarks can help sportsbooks differentiate in crowded markets. That’s likely why William Hill and DraftKings made their agreements with the National Basketball Association, she noted.

The cost of the data has to be justified, Downtown Grand Chairman Seth Schorr added. Using official data makes sense if it brings in new sports bettors but not if there’s nothing added but an expensive cost, he said.

PGA likely has no legal standing

Levinson and the PGA Tour’s stance that any information on its tournaments – even including whether a shot is a par, birdie or bogey – is stolen if it comes from an entity other than the league doesn’t hold much legal merit.

According to a 2002 California ruling, the First Amendment protects sports statistics. The findings in the case could be key to a future lawsuit over the potential requirement to use official data, John Holden summarized for Legal Sports Report.

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- Matthew Waters is a reporter covering legal sports betting and the gambling industry. Previous stops include Fantini Research and various freelance jobs covering professional and amateur sports in Delaware and the Philadelphia area.
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