Sports Betting in Tennessee
Compared to other states, Tennessee has had some of the most restrictive laws when it comes to gambling. For many years several bills have been proposed by State Representatives and other influential parties but they were all Killed off almost instantaneously. Tennessee continued to stand its ground regarding the prohibition of sports betting in the state until after the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Act by the Supreme Court in 2018.
Technically, betting on sports is now legal in the state thanks to a bill that was finally passed as law in May 2019. However, there are no specific regulations that have been laid out on how to regulate the activity in the state – something that’s currently in progress. If you’ve been having questions about the state of sports betting in the Volunteer State, let us look at activities that have led to the current nature of betting.
Brief History of Sports Betting in Tennessee
In 1906, the Volunteer state spelled doom for the local gambling industry when lawmakers introduced a blanket ban on even the most mundane forms of gambling all across the state. The ban shut down everything related to betting, including pari-mutuel betting on horse races. It took more than a century before any significant attempt was made towards the legalization of sports betting activities.
An early attempt towards getting any form sports betting legalized was in January of 2016 when State Bill 2109 and House Bill 2105 were tabled. These two bills sought to establish a task force that would evaluate and advise on the legality of daily fantasy contests. In addition to reviewing DFS contests, the task force would also be commissioned to recommend amendments concerning consumer protection laws that currently existed in the state in the case where DFS contests were to be regulated.
Following this, in March of the same year, the two bills got rewritten by legislators to stipulate regulations along with licensing requirements applicable to operators who seek to offer daily fantasy sports contest products in the state. The new versions of the bills also mentioned that Secretary of State was responsible for ensuring the new licenses for operators were available by 1 July 2016. Out of the two bills, SB 2109 gained majority vote by the senate when it received a 29-1 vote in its favor.
In April 2016, Attorney General Herbert Slatery declared DFS contests illegal, based on the Tennessee Gode. However, in the same month, the revised SB2109 was signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam to legalize daily fantasy sports contests officially.
2019 – Present
One of the main moves that influenced the current state of sports betting in Tennessee happened in November 2018 when Rick Staples brought forward to legislature House Bill 0001, known as The Tennessee Sports Gaming Act. The Bill was explicitly geared towards regulating interactive sports betting at a proposed tax rate of 10% of the gross wins by licensees. The bill did not propose the authorization of retail sports betting and also applied only to counties that voted in favor of the bill by local election. That December, the bill received a favorable vote from the commissioners of Shelby County.
The following year, HB 0001 was replaced by SB16 which allows interactive and retail sports betting through kiosks. It also proposed the tax rate be reduced to 20% instead of 22.5% of the gross win. The Tennessee Senate approved SB16, and it was passed into law despite the opposition it got from Governor Bill Lee. He stated that he would not give his signature to the cause of signing SB16 into law but that he would allow the process to go on. The governor also warned that he would veto any further attempts to expand gambling activities in the state, especially casino gambling.
Current Sports Betting Regulations in Tennessee
Sports betting was in the state of Tennessee was officially legalized in May 2019. Currently, state representatives continue to work on the framework for the regulation of sports betting. One of the key statutes of this law requires that every county has to hold a special election to give locals the power to have the last say on whether sports betting operations should be allowed within the county borders.
Interactive Sports Betting in Tennessee
Through the newly enacted law, residents are now to bet on sports both online and through retail betting kiosks both of which must be locally regulated by the county. This makes Tennessee the only state in the country to solely legalize sports betting and ban other forms of gambling.
Tennessee is very strict about not having any casino within its premises. Whether it is a land-based casino or an onshore interactive operator, the state has prohibited all casino gambling. That being said, no onshore casinos exist to open sportsbooks for the residents of Tennessee as is the case in other gambling legal states in the USA
Daily Fantasy Sports Betting
This has been a much-debated topic in Tennessee, especially given that the states Attorney General deemed DFS illegal but the Governor went ahead and signed the practice into law. Currently, residents over the age of 21 can participate in fantasy sports games.
Horse Racing Betting
The Volunteer state locals can place bets on horse racing activities through simulcast and pari-mutuel betting. Moreover, only two counties in the state allow live pari-mutuel betting, but there are no active racetracks in the state.
Summary of Sports Betting in Tennessee
|Mobile Sports Betting||Allowed|
|Daily Fantasy Sports Betting||Allowed|
|Authorized Forms of Betting on Sports||Online Sports Betting, Horse Racing, Pari-Mutuel Wagering, State-state Simulcast, dog racing|
|Legal Gambling Age||18+, Pari-Mutuel Betting|
21+ for DFS and sports betting
|Regulatory Bodies||Attorney General; Tennessee Lottery Education Commission|
|Key Legislation||Tennessee Code; Tennessee Charitable Gaming Implementation Law|
|Taxation||Revenues are Distributed for Charitable Purposes|
What Does the Future Hold for Sports Betting in Tennessee?
For over a century, the Volunteer state has stuck to its anti-gambling ways for decades. It was even surprising that they managed to get daily sports fantasy betting legalized in 2016 even though the Attorney General was against it. After sports betting was legalized in May 2019, it seemed that the state might be ready after all for fully-fledged gambling. Unfortunately, the Governor sent a clear message; he wasn’t going to allow the expansion of gambling to casino games.
Currently, the public is being given time to comment on the newly established laws. From the look of things, the first sportsbooks will start operating by mid-2020 both online and through retail betting kiosks. No land-based sportsbook, however, is in the process of being set up in the state.