Roberts Out As Tennessee Sports Betting Nears Launch
Jennifer Roberts, the gaming expert hired by the Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation to help oversee sports betting, is leaving after less than eight months on the job.
Roberts announced on her Twitter account that today is her last day as director of sports gaming regulation with the Tennessee Lottery. She is joining GameCo, based in Las Vegas, as vice president/general counsel starting July 1.
Roberts’ departure comes as Tennessee is about to launch the first all-mobile market in the U.S. It hopes to be operational when major sports return. Brick-and-mortar casinos and racetracks are prohibited in the state.
Roberts’ hiring by the Tennessee Lottery was lauded by the industry. She began Dec. 2, just after Tennessee released draft regulations for sports betting, which was legalized last July. Roberts had been associate director of the International Center for Gaming Regulation at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
In a Twitter message, she said "I’m excited to be working with a great team focused on innovation in the gaming and gambling spaces." The Tennessee Lottery confirmed today that it is Roberts' last day there.
Today is my last day with the Tennessee Lottery and I’m super excited to be joining the team at @GameCoLLC as VP/General Counsel starting July 1.— Jennifer Roberts (@JRoVegas) June 26, 2020
Tennessee Sports Betting Regulations Criticized
Roberts was seen as someone who could guide Tennessee to sports betting regulations that were favorable to all stakeholders — the state, consumers and gaming companies. Instead, Tennessee rules, approved in the spring, have been widely panned. They include an unprecedented high hold cap.
The high hold of 10% hurts consumers because sportsbooks will have to guarantee money won and that could affect betting lines. The national hold average is about 7.5%, according to a study of Tennessee’s proposed cap by industry analysts Eilers & Krejcik Gaming released as regulations were being considered.
Tennessee is also charging sportsbook operators a $750,000 licensing fee.
Roberts started in Tennessee during the comment period for the draft regulations. In the spring while regulations were being considered, Roberts proposed no cap so Tennessee can be “fully competitive with the illegal market,” according to the Associated Press.
The legislation approved in Tennessee requires the use of official data from sports leagues. In-play betting on college sports are not allowed. A controversial rule on parlay betting that was criticized during the comment period was not adopted.
When she was hired in Tennessee, Roberts told Gambling.com that “I really like focusing on sports betting. I think it's the new gambling trend and there's a lot of need for expertise in the space and I hope that I can provide a little bit of that to Tennessee and see it develop.”
That expertise will now be missing in Tennessee with her departure.
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