Tennessee Sports Betting Is Preparing For Fall Launch
Tennessee might finally have a launch date for sports betting and it could be up and running when the NFL and home state Titans are playing.
During a meeting of the Tennessee Lottery’s Sports Wagering Advisory Council Tuesday, lottery President and CEO Rebecca Hargrove said sports betting will be operational no later than Nov. 1. When regulations were approved in April, the lottery had hoped to be up and running when sports returned.
On Wednesday during the Tennessee Education Lottery Corp. board of directors meeting, Hargorve reiterated that sports betting will start no later than Nov. 1, but could launch sooner, possibly one or two weeks earlier, if the four operators who have applied are able to launch on the same day.
Tennessee is about to launch the first all-mobile market in the U.S. Brick-and-mortar casinos and racetracks are prohibited in the state. The sports betting law took effect in July 2019.
The Tennessee Lottery has received criticism from the gaming industry for some of the regulations it adopted, including a high hold cap and high licensing fees ($750,000). The board on Wednesday passed a resolution saying it would issue $25,000 fines (the highest allowed by the law) for violations of the 10% cap regulation, but that it could also suspend or not renew licenses for more serious violations.
At least four sportsbooks have applied as operators, although they have not been identified.
During its earnings report call Aug. 14, DraftKings said it is working on entering Tennessee and Virginia for sports betting and Michigan for sports betting and iGaming. Those states have passed legislation and are setting up sports betting and iGaming operations, hoping to go live before the end of the year.
After the regulations were approved April 15, other sportsbook operators that told Gambling.com they were looking into the Tennessee market included BetMGM, 888sports, Unibet and Stars Group’s FOX Bet. At the time, FanDuel said it does not comment on the application process. But it's likely to seek entry into the market.
The Tennessee Lottery has approved four vendors, according to its website.
Changes at the Tennessee Lottery
The lottery had to hire a new head of gaming in late June, just months before a proposed launch of sports betting. Danielle Boyd was hired as vice president of sports gaming operations days after Jennifer Roberts announced she was leaving as director of sports gaming regulation. Roberts was there just eight months.
Boyd had been at William Hill U.S., where she was the head of government relations for two years. She had previously been managing general counsel of the West Virginia Lottery for almost seven years but left shortly after the state launched sports betting in 2018.
Roberts was seen as someone who could help Tennessee reach sports betting regulations that were favorable to all stakeholders — consumers, gaming companies and the state. Instead, the regulations, approved in the spring, have been widely panned.
The high hold of 10% is unprecedented and could affect betting lines, which would affect consumers. The national hold average is about 7.5%, according to a study of Tennessee’s proposed cap by industry analysts Eilers & Krejcik Gaming. The study was released as regulations were being considered by the state in the spring.
The legislation approved in Tennessee sets a tax rate of 20% (one of the higher rates nationally) and requires the use of official data from sports leagues.
In-play betting on college sports is not allowed. A controversial rule on parlay betting that was criticized during the comment period for regulations was not adopted.
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