Tennessee Senate Passes Historic Mobile-Only Sports Betting Bill, Heading To Governor Soon

On Tuesday, the Tennessee Senate voted to send a sports betting bill one step closer to becoming law. It's unclear if the governor will sign.
Tennessee Passes Mobile Only Sports Betting Bill

On Tuesday morning, the state of Tennessee took a major step forward toward sports betting, with the Senate passage of a historic piece of legislation. The House passed its bill last week.

The legislation cleared the Senate by a 19-12 vote. The House passed it 58-37.

The legislation would make the Volunteer State the first state in the country with a mobile-only sports betting law. All other states that have either kicked off sports betting, or passed a bill that hasn’t been implemented yet, allow retail and, in some cases, mobile. Tennessee won’t even have kiosks anywhere.

The state previously considered up to 50 retail sports wagering locations, but later ditched that idea.

Minor changes were made during the bill’s time in the Senate, so the House will have to concur. It’s very unlikely there will be any hiccups getting the bill to the desk of Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican. His signature, or veto, will come by the end of May, at the latest. There’s no precise timeline right now.

Tennessee is eyeing a sports betting market worth nearly $150 mm each year in taxable revenues, based off roughly $3 billion in handle. Tennessee would tax sports betting at about 20%.

Governor’s position

Gov. Lee is on the record saying, during a debate as he was running for office last year, that he’s concerned about state-sanctioned gambling of any kind because it leads to, in his opinion, organized crime. There’s been little to nothing to suggest that Lee opposes gambling from a moral perspective.

In other words, if it can be effectively regulated he’d be supportive. The sports betting plan calls for regulation under the 15-year-old state lottery, which should give Lee some reassurance.

Lottery regulation was the route to go instead of creating a new state gaming commission to oversee the activity. The governor would have had to appoint new people to that agency.

Also worth mentioning is that Lee said previously that he would work with the legislature to make sure they didn’t pass a sports betting bill he didn’t like. Well, they passed one, and it was reported that he was involved with the process.

Highlights of Tennessee sports betting

  • Mobile Betting? Yes
  • In-person registration required? No
  • Tax rate: 22.5%
  • Annual license fee: $750k
  • Legal to bet on college games? Yes
  • Fee to pro leagues? No
  • Regulatory body: Tennessee Lottery Corporation
  • Where the money goes: Lottery fund

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