Tennessee Council Votes to Keep 10% Hold for Online Sportsbooks

Tennessee Council Votes to Keep 10% Hold for Online Sportsbooks
© USA Today

The Tennessee Sports Wagering Advisory Council voted Thursday to retain the 10% hold rule for sportsbooks operating in the state.

During a two-hour meeting in Nashville, the council unanimously approved a 70-page set of emergency rules, including the 10% sportsbook hold.

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On Jan. 1, oversight of the gaming industry in Tennessee, and responsibility for gaming regulation, transfers from the Tennessee Lottery to the Tennessee Sports Wagering Advisory Council.

Under the 10% hold rule, online bookmakers in Tennessee are required to “hold” 10% of the money bet on sporting events, paying out 90% of the amount wagered. The average hold nationally is slightly more than 7%.

Tennessee put this hold amount in place partly to keep larger sportsbook companies from operating at a loss to grab a bigger market share, according to published accounts.

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Some sportsbook operators have said the 10% rule in Tennessee restricts promotional opportunities and forces the online sportsbooks to give patrons worse betting odds than they might find in other states.

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At a rule-making subcommittee meeting last month, member Tom Lee noted that the “unique” rule in Tennessee can create “heartburn” for the sports-betting industry. But, he said, the rule ensures the state generates revenue for academic scholarships, treatment for gambling addiction and other programs.

An annual review will take place to ensure online sportsbook operators are complying with the 10% hold rule.

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Sports Betting a $2 Billion Industry in Tennessee

Mobile sports betting became operational in Tennessee in November 2020. Since then, it has taken in more than $2 billion in sports wagers from bettors. Tennessee does not have casinos or stand-alone sportsbooks.

One of its neighboring states, Virginia, also does not have casinos, but will build them. Still, like Tennessee, Virginia allows bettors to use their cellphones or laptops to wager on sports.

Nationwide, most wagers are placed on mobile devices such as smartphones.

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Southern States Eye Mobile Sports Betting

Two states that border Tennessee allow wagers to be placed at kiosks and sportsbook ticket windows inside casinos. These states are Mississippi and Arkansas.

In Arkansas, which has three casinos, the state Racing Commission on Dec. 30 is set to vote on allowing mobile wagering across the state. If approved, mobile sports betting could begin by February.

In Mississippi, the Legislature is expected to take mobile sports betting under consideration when lawmakers return to the Capitol in Jackson in January.

Mississippi is home to 26 state-regulated casinos. Bettors can use mobile devices to place bets in Mississippi, but only if the person making the wager is somewhere on casino property. Two Mississippi casinos, both owned by MGM Resorts, allow on-site mobile wagering.

Another of Tennessee’s neighboring states, Georgia, is expected to take up mobile sports betting when the Legislature next meets at the Gold Dome in Atlanta in January. Bills to allow legal sports betting and commercial casinos in Georgia failed at the last legislative session.