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Tennessee Sports Betting Books $27.4 Million in First Week, But Are Operators Ignoring Minimum Hold?

Tennessee’s online-only regulated sports betting market got off to strong start at the beginning of November, with nearly $27.4 million wagered the first week of its existence, according to figures from the Tennessee Lottery.

Bettors in Tennessee embraced the digital-only sports betting market in its first week with $5.1 million handled on the first day. (Image: Getty)

When the state’s Republican Governor Bill Lee begrudgingly allowed the relevant legislation to lapse into law last year, minus his signature, he opined that sports betting was “not consistent with the values of this state.”

If that’s true, no one was letting it hold them back. Tennessee’s four operators — BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel, and Tennessee Action 24/7 — handled $5.1 million on launch day, November 1, an NFL Sunday.

Critical Funds

The $27.4 million wagered for the first week generated revenues of $2.5 million — although the Lottery did not break this figure down by operator — which translated to $509,000 for state coffers.

“In our role as the regulator of this industry, we are focused on establishing and supporting a responsible and competitive sports wagering program in Tennessee,” said Lottery President and CEO Rebecca Paul Hargrove in a statement.

These numbers are encouraging as we work to protect the consumer, promote fairness in sports, and regulate this new Tennessee industry that provides critical funds for education, as well as local governments and problem gambling services,” she added.

Previously, Tennessee residents would have to travel to West Memphis or Tunica to place bets, or more likely engage with the black market.

No Holds Barred

It’s early days, but the figures are promising, especially because this is the only state to regulate sports betting thus far that has shoehorned a mandatory hold percentage into its rules. And it seems bettors have not been put off.

The hold is the percentage of the total handle a sports book retains after winnings are returned to customers. The higher the hold, the less money returned, which generally means the bookmaker is offering uncompetitive odds.

The hold percentage fluctuates. But in Nevada, it is on average 5.4 percent. In Tennessee, it is a minimum of ten percent.

According to Legal Sports Report, not all operators are abiding by the rules, per the minutes of the Lottery’s Sports Wagering Advisory Council Meeting Monday.

Operators are liable for fines of up to $25,000 per year for non-compliance. But one councilmember noted that this could just be seen as the “cost of doing business” for operators who wish to remain competitive with West Memphis, Tunica, and the black market.

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