The SCOTUS decision to allow states to legalize sports betting has spurred executives and owners of sports leagues, who for years had railed against the evils of the practice, to now embrace it for one reason: they see easy $$$. The hypocrisy is stunning, but really not surprising.
One of the ways owners and league executives are seeking to grab money is to try to charge sports books an “integrity fee,” purportedly so they can police their games against game fixing. My question is–did they not care before, when legal books were limited to Nevada? Sports book are the first line of defense against fixed games, and they do a fine job of it. The leagues aren’t needed for this function.
The demands are pure greed. Legalized sports betting alone is a huge boon to sports leagues. Mark Cuban, billionaire owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, agrees. Following the Supreme Court decision, he said, “I think everyone who owns a top-four professional sports team just basically saw the value of their team double.”
Another way leagues are trying to increase their piece of the sports betting pie is by partnering with sports books in various ways. I don’t have a big issue with that, except that along with the extra profits should come the responsibility to make sure bettors get a fair shake in all aspects of the game, and that’s where I have a problem.
To illustrate my point, the Memorial golf tournament this year was won by Jon Rahm, who appeared to win by 5 strokes after a miraculous chip-in on the 16th hole in the final round. However, a super close-up tv shot showed that when he addressed the ball, it moved a tiny fraction. No one, including Rahm, could have seen with the naked eye, so it should not be penalized. Here’s the PGA Tour rule: “If the facts shown on the video could not reasonably have been seen with the naked eye, that video evidence will be disregarded even if it indicates a breach of the Rules.”
And yet the penalty was assessed.
Regardless of the interpretation of the rule, after assessing the penalty, Slugger White, the head rules official, said that if it had been a one-shot lead so the penalty would have affected the winner, it might have been a different story. And therein lies the rub. To say the ruling might have been different under different circumstances shows ignorance of the betting environment.
The PGA Tour has fully embraced, and will profit from sports betting, as described in this story.
If it wants to profit from sports betting, the PGA Tour at least needs to fully understand how it works. While the questionable penalty didn’t affect the winner, it was a deciding factor in a lot of different bets. The way the Tour acted, I don’t think its representatives have any idea that people are betting on anything but the outright winner. Personally, I had Rahm to win by 4 or more strokes, so the penalty turned a winner into a loser for me. A lot of bettors suffered the same fate for an array of different kinds of bets that were affected by the penalty. Did the ruling that cost some bettors their wagers conversely change some losers into winners? Absolutely, but that’s not the point. It goes back to that word integrity. Instead of a draconian, unnecessary fee on sports books, the leagues should focus on the integrity of all aspects of their games and events so the people betting on them get a fair shake. That starts with employing people who understand the business so these kinds of things don’t happen without proper consideration.