Tennessee House, Senate Approve Mobile Sports Wagering Bill

Tennessee House, Senate Approve Mobile Sports Wagering Bill

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee isn’t a proponent of legalized sports betting. But the Republican, by not vetoing a bill that will soon land on his desk, will let Tennessee join the growing list of states where wagering on sports is legal.

HB1 narrowly passed in the Republican-controlled Tennessee House and Senate on Tuesday. The Senate voted 19 to 12 in favor, with the House then voting 51-40 to pass the amendments the Senate added at the behest of Lee. A bill requires 50 votes for it to pass the House.

Tennessee Governor Won’t Object Over Bill

Lee said he will not sign the bill, though he will also not prevent it from going into law beginning July 1, 2019. Had he vetoed HB 1, the House and Senate could have overridden Lee with a majority vote in both chambers.

“The governor has said he does not believe that the expansion of gambling is best, but he recognizes that many in the legislature found this to be an issue they want to explore further,” a Lee spokeswoman said in a statement Tuesday, per the Daily Memphian.

Tennessee joins Indiana, Iowa and Montana as states where bills legalizing sports betting have recently passed the respective legislatures and are now before each governor. This continues the proliferation of legalized wagering on sports that began last May when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal ban that prohibited sports gaming outside of Nevada.

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision, seven states added operational sportsbooks in the past 12 months in addition to Nevada, the one state where sports wagering has long been legal.

Only Online Sports Betting Permitted in Tennessee

The bill passed by Tennessee lawmakers to authorize legalized sports betting is unique from other states in that wagering on sports will only be permissible via third-party online sportsbooks such as DraftKings and FanDuel. The Volunteer State will still prohibit brick-and-mortar sportsbooks.

Every other state that offers legalized sports betting allows in-person sports gaming at physical casinos, with some also authorizing online betting. Initially, HB 1 would’ve permitted sportsbooks at casinos within Tennessee, though this was later omitted to help the bill gain approval in the House and Senate.

A bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Sen. Steve Dickerson (R-Nashville) and Rep. Rick Staples (D-Knoxville), HB 1 took on many variations as it worked through the House and Senate. In the final form that was passed on Tuesday, the bill estimates legalized sports betting in Tennessee will generate upward of $50 million in tax revenue each year, which will be earmarked to fund educational programs, local government infrastructure projects and mental health services, including gambling addiction treatment.

A nine-member board within Tennessee’s Lottery Commission will oversee state sports betting regulations. Only persons age 21 and older can place a wager. The bill states that athletes, team owners, sportsbook operators and anyone who could impact the outcome of a sporting event are prohibited from wagering on sports.

Online sportsbooks will have to pay a $750,000 annual licensing fee and are required to install geo-fencing restrictions to ensure that an individual is within Tennessee while betting. The state would also impose a 20 percent tax rate on purveyor winnings.

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