Tennessee Online Sports Betting Begins On November 1

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09/29/2020
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In a recent meeting, the head of the Tennessee gaming regulator, the Tennessee Lottery, has gone on the record in announcing that online sports betting will go live in the Volunteer State by November 1 2020.

In an official media release, Tennessee Lottery President and Chief Executive Officer Rebecca Hargrove made a commitment to the start date.

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In an official media release, Tennessee Lottery President and Chief Executive Officer Rebecca Hargrove made a commitment to the start date.

Four online sportsbook operators have completed their applications for sports betting licenses (at $750 000 apiece) and background checks are currently underway.

None of the four operators have been officially named by the committee, however, unconfirmed media sources are suggesting that those four operators are DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM and Tennessee Action 24/7. The Tennessee Lottery’s Board of Directors are also considering the license applications of 19 additional online sports betting operators;

“At this point, I’m pleased to tell you we’ll start no later than November 1, and potentially a week or two ahead of that if we can get all of the background checks back from the folks who have them,” Hargrove said.

Upon completion of the background checks, the applications will go to the Lottery Board for further consideration, which will complete the process. If the Volunteer State’s regulatory board timeline holds up, Tennesseans will be able to wager on NFL football games and other sports before Thanksgiving.

Unlike every other state that has legalized sports wagering (other than also soon-to-begin Virginia), Tennessee’s entire sports betting industry will be an online one. In the majority of legal sports betting states, sports betting bills only dealt with land-based betting. Online was either added after the fact, or surprisingly in many cases, is still considered illegal.

How the battle was won & how the law applies in Tennessee

Online sports wagering became legal in Tennessee on July 1 2019. The Volunteer State’s seminal sports betting moment of history came when the Tennessee State Legislature passed sports betting HB 0001 in May 2019, and Governor Bill Lee let the bill pass into law without his signature, saying at the time he did not believe allowing online sports gambling was “in the best interest of the state.”

Tennessee is one of the very few states across the nation that doesn’t have bricks-and-mortar casino inside state lines, so physical retail sportsbooks were never a consideration by the state’s lawmakers. Since the state doesn’t have traditional gaming regulators, the Lottery Commission will oversee the market.

Fast forward to 2020 – On April 15 2020, the Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation (TELC) adopted the final set of sports betting regulations and an invitation to operators top apply for sports betting licenses quickly followed.

As a result, November sports betting rollout is long awaited, after previous false starts in January, March and July of 2020. The global pandemic caused further delays in the sports betting launch process and as such, has resulted in the new November launch date.

Reasons for the Tennessee Sports Betting Launch Delay

When the licensing regulations rolled out in April, it was announced at the time that Tennessee would be the first state with a minimum hold percentage. Tennessee sportsbooks will be mandated to have a hold percentage of at least 10 percent.

What that means, for example, is that if an operator accepts $10 million in bets, it must have a revenue of at least $1 million available. The minimum hold percentage law in Tennessee could potentially lead to less competitive betting lines set by the online sportsbooks. By way of comparison, Nevada sportsbooks average a 5.4 percent hold rate.

However, this law is still not set in stone for the long-term future as the state’s regulators will revisit the ‘minimum hold’ rule after the Tennessee market has been up-and-running for a year.

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