Tennessee Online Sports Betting Now Up to State Senate, Gov. Bill Lee

Posted on: April 26, 2019, 08:49h. 

Last updated on: April 26, 2019, 08:49h.

The Tennessee proposal to allow online — but not land-based casino sports betting — faces an uncertain future after the House of Representatives approved the measure Wednesday and it next heads to the Senate.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee may have the final word on whether to approve online sports betting in the state. A proposal was approved in the House and heads to the Senate. (Image: News Channel 5)

The House passed the bill by a 58 to 37 vote. The proposal was approved by the Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee the same day by a 9 to 2 vote.

A full Senate vote could take place as early as next week.

If the Senate and House bills differ, the legislation may be sent to a conference committee to iron out discrepancies.

The current version of the Tennessee Sports Gaming Act has gotten national attention because no other state limits sports wagering to online, without having it in combination with betting at established brick and mortar venues.

James P. Whelan, co-director at the Institute for Gambling Education and Research at the University of Memphis, also wonders how it will be regulated under such a unique set-up.

The bill continues to evolve,” Whelan told Casino.org. “The Senate says it is going nowhere.”

While it was debated by legislators, concerns were raised about moral issues and how it may lead to higher risk for problem gamblers, according to Whelan.

Yet, the state’s leaders never reached out to the Institute for Gambling Education and Research for its input on the proposals.

“I have… been shocked that no one in Tennessee has contacted us about this legislation,” Whelan said.

Parts of the bill limit some aspects of betting, but Whelan says there needs to be “more regulatory control over what is offered, advertised and overseen.

“I would also like to see requirements for responsible gambling standards…. Someone … needs to step up and fund research on the relation of online wagering and gambling problems….”

Tennessee Governor Needs to Sign Bill

If approved by the Senate, it would be up to Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, on whether to sign the bill into law. Earlier, Lee opposed allowing such gambling in the state.

House Speaker Glen Casada, R-63, who voted for the bill, said he does not expect Lee to veto the proposal.

Currently, the bill would set the tax on sportsbooks’ adjusted gross income at 10 percent. That will include all money paid to sportsbooks as bets, less the amount given to winning bettors.

The added revenue would provide the government about $50 million a year, according to one estimate. As envisioned, 40 percent of the money will go to the General Fund. Thirty percent goes to local colleges and the remaining 30 percent will be given to local government for education and infrastructure funding.

In its current version, athletes and team owners involved in a game, operators of sports betting, and others who could impact the outcome would be prohibited from betting. They could be charged with a misdemeanor if they wagered money on the event.

Sports Betting in Multiple States

Sports betting is now legally underway in eight states. Two of them, Nevada and New Mexico, have tribal casinos that provide wagering on athletic events.

In Indiana, Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican, has a week to consider whether to a sign a sports betting bill. It was approved by the state’s legislature on Wednesday.

Many other states are considering approving sports betting. In March, Rhode Island became the sixth state to back some form of online or mobile betting, though it is not underway in all locations yet.

Last May, sports betting was unfurled for states after the US Supreme Court overturned a ban put into place by the federal 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).