Sports betting is about to go live in Tennessee, a state that offers bettors an increasing mix of online wagering opportunities, though casino gambling is not among them.
The Volunteer State’s new sports betting law allows for only online/mobile sports betting, the first state in the country to try that approach. The state already allows Daily Fantasy Sports betting as well as online pari-mutuel wagering.
Tennessee prohibits all forms of casino gambling, including online casinos. Tennessee bettors who want to play slots, video poker or table games can do so at online social casinos such as Chumba for prizes or amusement, with no money changing hands. Casino gambling for real money at offshore-based sites or offshore sportsbooks, which are unregulated and may place your funds at risk, is not recommended.
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Casino gambling is not legal in Tennessee in any form, so residents must cross state lines to play slots, blackjack or other table games for real money. An online alternative is social casinos, where players are provided virtual coins for signing up and ca win prizes through sweepstakes-style games The games are free and can be played on the social casino’s website or through Facebook apps.
Tennessee allows online gambling for sports betting, pari-mutuel wagering (though the state has no horse tracks or off-track wagering facilities) and Daily Fantasy Sports. There is no retail sports betting.
There is no timetable. Legislation to allow any form of casino gambling in Tennessee is not a priority and seems far into the future. In fact, Gov. Bill Lee, in allowing the sports betting bill to become law, told state lawmakers that he appreciated their efforts to avoid building casinos in the state.
That said, Tennessee residents continue to cross state borders in large numbers to support casino gambling in neighboring states. That’s especially true around Memphis, whose residents help support more than half-dozen casinos in Tunica, Miss., (40 miles away) and Southland Park Gaming & Racing in West Memphis, Ark. (7 miles away). Tennessee lawmakers in search of additional tax revenue might someday consider some form of online casino gambling to keep Tennessee players home, especially if online sports betting exceeds projections.
Tennessee has no land-based casinos and does not allow casino gambling or casino games in any form.
If Tennessee were to someday approve online casino gambling, it’s likely that most of the prominent national online operators would be interested, provided tax rates and license fees weren’t onerous. Among the obvious candidates would be successful operators of the state’s online sportsbooks. Companies that are experienced online casino and sportsbook operators include Caesars Entertainment, Bet MGM, BetAmerica, DraftKings and FanDuel.
Any successful online casino operation would include mobile apps, which enable bettors to place wagers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from anywhere inside the state. Mobile apps will play a prominent role in Tennessee’s online-only sports betting operation.
Mobile casino apps are generally available for both Android and Apple operating systems and can be downloaded for free on the operator’s website or through the App Store.
Online casinos generally offer the same games found in traditional casinos, with additional variations. Among them:
Online slots: Online casinos can replicate the thousands of slot games offered at land-based casinos to fit comfortably on your mobile screen. New slot games add animation and 3D imaging. You would also be able to play free slots.
Online poker: Tennessee does not allow poker rooms. Online poker in other states offers both cash games and tournament play for a variety of stakes and entry fees. Tennessee does have a famous poker alumnus: 2003 World Series of Poker champion Chris Moneymaker.
Online roulette: The online version features identical rules with a digital electronic random number generator replacing the physical wheel.
Online blackjack: The most popular table game at both land-based and online casinos. The latter allows players a variety of blackjack games to choose from (Blackjack Switch, Spanish 21, etc.) with lower minimum bets.
Lottery: Under Tennessee law, lottery tickets must be purchased in-person at a participating retailer and only with cash. Online sales are prohibited by the Tennessee lottery.
Live dealer: Live table games dealt by an actual person from a studio and streamed to your computer or mobile device. Live dealer helps create a more social, live casino experience. Availability of live dealer games varies by state with some offering sparse and others more robust options.
Tennessee’s sports betting bill specifically mentions three payment options, which could also apply to any future casino gambling bill:
Electronic bank transfer: Use of e-checks (electronic version of paper check) or bank transfer, which establishes a digital connection between your bank account and online gambling account. Works for deposits and withdrawals.
Debit cards: Common and convenient method. Debit cards only use the funds available in your bank account, which helps prevent overspending.
Online mobile payment systems: Also known as e-wallets, which store your information and transfer funds at your request. Accounts can be opened with a credit/debit card or through a bank account. Popular e-wallet options include PayPal, Neteller and Skrill.
Tennessee’s sports betting law also allows deposits for “any other method approved by the rule of the board that is initiated with cash.’’ Those could include at some point the virtual prepaid Play+ card, PayNearMe and more.
In states that offer online casino gambling, a wide range of bonuses are offered to sign up new players or retain existing ones. The most common:
No Deposit Bonus: Bonus money that is placed into your account just for signing up. You will likely have to risk that bonus money at least once before redeeming it.
Deposit Match: Make an initial deposit into your account and the casino operator will match that amount up to 100 percent or possibly more. This type of bonus comes with playthrough restrictions, with the bonus money released in increments the more you play. Read the terms and conditions closely.
Loyalty Bonus: May be offered to long-term players who have reached or surpassed specific wagering thresholds.
Free Spins: Generally offered to new players, allowing them free slot spins to try new games and win money.
With the lone exception of sports betting, Tennessee remains one of the most desolate jurisdictions for gambling in America. Even with legal sports wagering, Tennessee is much closer to Utah than Nevada in terms of gambling.
Gaming in nearly all forms has remained taboo since the state’s founding more than 200 years ago. Unlike the original colonies, which used lotteries and other forms of gambling to in part fund the American revolution, Tennessee never had that early bedrock of gambling. Instead, Tennessee was better defined by the conservative movements of the 1800s, traditions that remained into the 21st century.
Even horse racing betting, which had flourished in other states and was used as a revenue lifeline in the Great Depression, failed to gain much support, even when it became a cultural staple in neighboring Kentucky. Unlike much of the rest of the country, Tennessee remained averse to pari-mutuel horse race betting. That antipathy continued against the other major gambling developments, including the casino boom of the late 1900s and the online expansions in the 2000s.
The most significant gaming development in Tennessee history is the state-sanctioned lottery. Not surprisingly, it was one of the very last states to approve one.
State’s first online sports betting sites are expected to launch.
Lawmakers narrowly approve bill that allows Tennessee to become the first state with online-only sports betting. Gov. Bill Lee allows bill to become law without his signature.
Gov. Bill Haslam signs bill allowing Tennessee to become third state to regulate Daily Fantasy Sports.
With no horse tracks built, Tennessee legislators repeal the Racing Control Act, though licensed Internet platforms are allowed to continue to offer pari-mutuel wagering.
State lottery is approved in voter referendum. First ticket is sold in January 2004.
State Legislature approves Racing Control Act, which authorizes potential construction of race tracks.
With no casino gambling or pari-mutuel facility of any kind, Tennessee wasn’t the leading candidate to become the first state to legalize online-only sports gambling. But lawmakers narrowly approved HB 0001 in May 2019 and Gov. Bill Lee allowed it to become law without his signature.
Other states that have legalized sports wagering offer either retail sports betting or a combination of brick-and-mortar and online wagering. The original Tennessee bill included a provision for land-based sportsbooks but was removed due to opposition from Lee, who opposes gambling expansion in the state. The good news is, online/mobile wagering accounts for more than 80% of all legal sports wagers in New Jersey sportsbooks and Pennsylvania sportsbooks.
Still, the bill is not without controversy. The Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation set a mandatory 10% hold on all sports wagers, an extremely high percentage (an even higher 15% was initially proposed). That means Tennessee players will pay a steep vigorish on many wagers - only 90% of their winning bets will be returned - and betting lines will likely be less competitive than in other legal states. By comparison, the average hold in Nevada is about 5.4%; New Jersey about 7%.
The law allows the state to revise its sports betting regulations after one year.
No firm date has been set, but it’s expected that the first Tennessee sports betting sites will launch in the summer of 2020, in time for the upcoming NFL season.
The Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation began accepting sports betting applications in April 2020 and has 90 days to approve or deny them. Gambling.com will continue to monitor and update all of the state’s sports betting developments as they occur.
Tennessee passed legislation to regulate daily fantasy sports in 2016, the third state to do so after Indiana and Virginia.
All of the major DFS operators are active in Tennessee, including Fanduel, DraftKings, Yahoo and FantasyDraft.
Tennessee has no pari-mutuel facilities or off-track betting sites, though the Racing Control Act in 1987 established a Tennessee State Racing Commission and allowed for track licenses. But no horse tracks were ever built due to failed referendums or litigation issues. In 2015, lawmakers repealed the Racing Control Act. Thus far, attempts to revive it have been unsuccessful.
Tennessee residents can wager on pari-mutuel races through licensed online providers such as TVG, TwinSpires and DRFBets. For Tennessee residents who want to go to the track, Kentucky Downs, a simulcast facility that offers six lucrative live thoroughbred racing dates in September, is located less than a half-mile north of the Tennessee-Kentucky border.
Lawmakers set no limit on the number of licenses to be issued in the state, so a competitive online sportsbook marketplace with several of the top national operators seems likely.
But it’s also possible that Tennessee’s high fees, tax rates and hold percentage could limit the number of operators. In addition to a $750,000 annual licensing fee, sports betting operators will pay a 20% gross gaming revenue tax - a higher percentage than any of its neighboring states. That’s not good news for the sports bettor.
All of the major pro and college sports, including games involving Tennessee professional teams (Titans, Predators, Grizzlies, Nashville SC) and Division I college teams (University of Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Middle Tennessee State, University of Memphis, Austin Peay, etc.). The list also includes golf, tennis, motorsports, boxing, mixed martial arts and international sports. Proposition bets on college sports are not permitted.
Yes. Online/mobile is the only legal way to bet on sports in Tennessee. The state also allows online pari-mutuel wagering and Daily Fantasy Sports betting.
Bettors must be 21 to wager on sports; 18 for lottery and pari-mutuel wagering.
The state does not offer casino gambling. There is no restriction on who can apply for an online sports betting license, but all applicants must be approved by state regulators.
Online/mobile sports betting, online pari-mutuel wagering, Daily Fantasy Sports, lottery and social casinos.
No. The only requirement is you must be physically located in Tennessee to place a legal wager. Geolocation technology pinpoints your location.
The only legal offers you will see are offers for social casinos, which offer slots and a variety of table games. The games are played with virtual coins for prizes or amusement and not for real money. Any real-money offers are from offshore, unregulated casinos and should be avoided.
Tennessee has no casinos, poker rooms, race tracks, off-track betting facilities or sports betting shops. You can play the lottery at various retailers.
Yes. Online/mobile is the only way to legally place a sports bet in Tennessee.
The Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation is responsible for licensing and regulation of online sports wagering.
If and when online casino gambling becomes legal, online casino games will be safe at sites that are licensed and regulated by the Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation, which would be responsible for ensuring games are fair and accounts secure.
According to the IRS, all gambling winnings are taxable at a rate based on your tax bracket. The good news is, Tennessee has no state income tax to impose on gambling winnings.
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