In 2019, Tennessee joined a growing number of states to legalize sports betting. The momentous legislation came when the legislature passed HB 0001 in May 2019, and Gov. Bill Lee let the bill pass into law without his signature. Legal and regulated online sports betting went live on Nov. 1, 2020 where we saw three of the biggest names in online sports betting, BetMGM, FanDuel and DraftKings, take the first wagers, just in time for week 8 of the NFL season. In addition, local entry Tennessee Action 24/7 also went live on Nov. 1.
On this page, we will review Tennessee’s legal sports betting landscape, and look at what we know and what Tennesseans can expect from legal TN sportsbooks.
Best TN Sportsbook Apps
Brief look at the road to launch and who’s next
Tennessee being a “non-gaming” state — one of only a dozen states where there are no tribal or commercial casinos — the rule-making and regulation phase for legal sports gambling took a good chunk of time.
A final set of sports betting regulations were adopted on April 15, 2020 by the Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation (TELC), which will maintain regulatory oversight over legal TN sports betting. As noted above four operators went live on Nov. 1, 2020, and there are at least four more waiting in the wings. Churchill Downs, William Hill, and WynnBet all filed sports betting applications in the fall, but the TELC shelved them until the Nov. 1 launch. To date, there is no timeline for approvals. In addition, the sports betting exchange platform Zen Sports tweeted in late November that it also filed an application.
Tennessee lawmakers do not seem desirous of opening brick-and-mortar casinos. The sports betting law creates a framework for online and mobile sports betting only. In fact, Tennessee became the first state to pass a mobile- and online-only sports betting law. This design could provide a template for other states to follow in the future, with legalizing sports betting through online channels exclusively.
Getting started at Tennessee online sports betting sites
As in every state where legal sports wagering exists, there are various restrictions concerning age, what types of bets people can make, on which sport events, and so forth.
Anyone looking to place legal sports bets in Tennessee will need to be at least 21 years of age. There will be no exceptions to this requirement.
The new law does not allow for any brick-and-mortar casinos or sportsbooks. Those looking to wager on sports in the Volunteer State are able to sign up for an account via online platforms or mobile applications. But note that bettors must be physically located within state boundaries in order to place a bet.
Sportsbooks use geolocation software to determine that bettors are located within state boundaries in order to place a bet. As is standard practice with geolocation software, if your location can’t be verified as within state boundaries, you will not be able to wager.
Registering an account with a legal Tennessee sportsbook is a breeze. The process takes just a few minutes and bettors will need to submit all or some combination of the following information.
- Social security number
- Phone number
With Tennessee taking an online and mobile approach to sports betting, registrants will need to create a username and/or password for an account.
Depositing and withdrawing
Similar to the registration process, Tennessee has similar banking options for its legal sportsbooks, providing enhanced levels of safety and security as opposed to offshore, unregulated sportsbooks.
Banking options in Tennessee are up the standard of other states. Below are the some of convenient banking options available in Tennessee:
- Online banking transfer
- Prepaid cards
- PayPal and Skrill
Tennessee online and mobile sportsbooks
|Online Sportsbook||Get Bonus||Online Launch|
|BetMGM||Coming soon||Nov. 1, 2020|
|FanDuel||Coming soon||Nov. 1, 2020|
|DraftKings||Coming soon||Nov. 1, 2020|
|Tennessee Action 24/7||Coming soon||Nov. 1, 2020|
Despite somewhat high licensing fees and taxes, Tennessee law doesn’t restrict the number of platforms that can be live in the state and with only minor exceptions, patrons can wager on professional and college sports. Against that backdrop, the expectation is that every big operator licensed in the U.S. will want to join the market. So far, at least half a dozen national operators — BetMGM, Churchill Downs (BetAmerica), DraftKings, FanDuel, William Hill and WynnBet — are live or in the application process. It would be fair to expect that operators like Barstool/Penn National, and PointsBet, among others, will apply at some point.
As long as an operator is approved by the regulatory body, and pays a hefty $750,000 annual fee, it will be able to offer sports betting in the state.
Although the annual fee and tax rate (20%) on revenue is not small, at least operators will not need to latch onto a limited number of land-based casinos for sports betting licenses — and pay a corresponding access fee — to operate in the state.
Below is a list of potential additional operators to offer sports betting in Tennessee:
Mandatory 10% minimum hold requirement
The most controversial, complicated aspect of the TN sports betting rules was the TELC’s proposed “payout cap” requirement. The first version of it would have required sportsbooks to pay back to bettors no more than 85% of all bets taken. In other words, a mandatory 15% hold. This may work in fixed-matrix lottery games, or in parimutuel horse racing, but not sports betting, wherein Nevada and New Jersey, sportsbooks keep on average about 5.5 to 7% annually. The TELC ultimately adopted a 90% payout cap, or 10% mandatory hold, that it has the option to revisit.
This misguided rule threatens the core of TN sports betting (15.1.9: Rule Governing Capped Payout), and fortunately the rule in its final form became less offensive, but still will impact the quality of the offerings and payouts that bettors see. We speculate that sportsbooks will meet the annual 10% minimum hold requirement by pricing up parlays, or perhaps making prop-bet odds less favorable, but keeping the pricing scheme in other areas largely the same as in other markets (-110 both ways).
In addition, during TELC Board and Sports Wagering Advisory Council meetings through the fall, the penalty for not adhering to the 90% cap was discussed. The law allows for up to a $25,000 fine for any rule breaking, and the Advisory Board adopted $25,000 as the number for the fine. There remains some question, however, about how often that fine can be imposed — annually? monthly? weekly? As of November 2020, that discussion was still going on. Beyond the fine, repeat offenders could be subject to having their licenses suspended, however, both the Advisory Council and Board were clear that this would be a last resort. A suspended license in Tennessee could potentially affect an operator’s ability to function in another state.
Regulators also adopted a dispute-resolution directive put forth by the Advisory Council. The directive spells out how an unhappy consumer would address complaints. The first step would be for the customer to try to resolve the issue directly with the operator, but if that fails, the customer could move on to TEL staff, TEL CEO Hargrove, the Advisory Council, and finally to the full Lottery Board.
FanDuel Sportsbook and DraftKings Sportsbook in Tennessee
DraftKings and FanDuel have been major players in nearly all of the legalized sports betting markets across the U.S., and both were given the green light to go live and did so on Nov. 1, 2020. Both were already offering daily fantasy sports (DFS) to those in Tennessee.
Bettors in Tennessee get the same industry leading products from DraftKings and FanDuel that the two operators offer in other jurisdictions. Both companies have plenty of experience operating as online and mobile platforms, so there should be no issue with Tennessee not having brick-and-mortar establishments.
Land-based sportsbooks in Tennessee
There currently are no casinos or sportsbooks in Tennessee and there are no plans for such land-based venues to open. Tennessee’s sports betting industry is designed as a mobile- and online-only industry.
Some may wonder if Tennessee’s sports betting industry could suffer or not reach its full potential without having land-based sportsbooks available. This shouldn’t be the case, as other states have shown us that mobile and online sports betting accounts for the largest revenue generation in states where both are offered — as much as 90% in New Jersey now.
Laws and regulations
When the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 was struck down in May 2018 by the U.S. Supreme Court, sports betting effectively became a state’s right issue. Since then, almost two dozen states have hopped on the legal sports wagering bandwagon and Tennessee is one of them.
Of course, legal sports betting comes with new laws and regulations. Here is a look at details of Tennessee’s sports betting laws.
- Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation oversees the state’s sports betting industry
- Online- and mobile-only sports betting operations; no brick-and-mortar sports betting
- $750,000 annual licensing fee
- $50,000 application fee (nonrefundable)
- No limit to how many operators can apply
- Licensing fees go to Tennessee Promise Scholarship fund
- 20% tax on adjusted sports betting revenue for licensed operators
- Tax revenue to be distributed to education, local governments, and gambling addiction programs
- Must be 21 years of age or older to place a bet
- Must be located within state boundaries to place a bet
- In-game prop bets on college sports prohibited
- Operators must utilize “official league data” for in-play wagering. This could be an obstacle for some providers, which would restrict in-play betting for those that do not seek official data.
The 20% tax rate on gross gaming revenue will apply to all operators and is on the higher side of tax rates. The $750,000 annual license fee is also fairly high. For comparison, New Jersey’s fee to apply for a sports betting license is $100,000 and online sportsbooks pay a flat 13% tax on gaming revenue.
History of sports betting in Tennessee
Until the passage of HB 0001, legal sports betting in Tennessee has been virtually nonexistent. The state does not have brick-and-mortar casinos or sports betting establishments. The closest things would be horse racing and daily fantasy sports (DFS). State lottery games began in 2004. When Tennessee announced that it would be pursuing legalized sports betting, it came as a bit of a surprise given the state’s history with gambling.
Rep. Rick Staples started the charge by introducing HB 0001 in November 2018. The bill underwent some amendments and was eventually shaped into form. A ban on prop betting for college sports was implemented before the bill was advanced out of committee and to the statehouse. There, more amendments were made that saw the tax rate increase from 10% to 20%, and the licensing fee jump from $7,500 to $750,000.
An additional amendment was added to require operators to use official league data in order to offer in-play wagering. In-person registration was originally going to be required, but this requirement was removed.
Following the amendments, in April 2019 HB 0001 passed the House by a vote of 58-37 and then moved to the Senate, where it also passed, this time by a vote of 19-12. At the time, the legislation was monumental in that it made Tennessee the first state to legalize sports betting for online and mobile only, without the requirement of land-based sports betting locations.
Although he had expressed some concern over the bill, Gov. Bill Lee let the bill be passed into law without his signature. The first wagers were placed on Nov. 1, 2020.