Guide to Gambling in Tennessee


Laws around gambling in Tennessee were among the toughest in the nation (until the legalization of online sports betting in 2019) and wider gambling options exist outside the state’s borders. Other legal betting in Tennessee revolves around state and regional lotteries, limited charitable gambling, horse racing betting (off-track and online) and Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) are played under the auspices of state law. Tennessee’s stern regulations don’t allow for exceptions. For example, no exception is made for social or home gaming.

Most notably, it has been mentioned in the State Legislature and reported in the Volunteer State’s media that Tennessee may make history and legalize something like NJ’s best online casinos before it acts on land-based casinos. For now, it’s a way off, but we’ll advise you as developments come to hand.

Tennessee Casino Gambling

Neither tribal nor commercial venues operate inside Tennessee. In fact, no casinos at all are permitted under the Volunteer State’s strict laws. Many of the state’s residents cross over state borders to legally play casinos, most notably, into neighboring Mississippi or North Carolina.

Given the Volunteer State’s strict anti-casino laws, many of Tennessee’s residents are required to travel in order to fulfil their casino gambling needs. Tunica, Mississippi is the most convenient and nearest casino town for the majority of residents of Tennessee. Only about three hours from Nashville, and less than an hour from Memphis by car, Tunica is home to a number of gambling venues, ranging from small OTB racinos to full-scale casino resort properties with table games, top-shelf restaurants and live entertainment.

Online Casinos in Tennessee

Online gaming options in Tennessee that can be played legally by online gambling aficionados are limited exclusively to online sports betting, horse racing betting and DFS competitions.

Most forms of gambling are deemed illegal under section 39-17-501 of the Tennessee State Code and online casinos fall under that broad sweeping State Code.

Poker in Tennessee

Social ‘home’ Poker games are not legal in Tennessee. Playing home poker games is deemed to contravene Tennessee’s anti-gambling laws.

Poker Rooms

Despite being a game of skill, live poker is not permissible under the Tennessee State Law (39-17-501 of the Tennessee State Code) strict definition of gambling;

‘Gambling is contrary to the public policy of this state and means risking anything of value for a profit whose return is to any degree contingent on chance, or any games of chance associated with casinos, including, but not limited to, slot machines, roulette wheels and the like.’

The term “to any degree contingent on chance” is open to interpretation and as poker does include some element of chance, it is classified as gambling in Tennessee and is considered to be illegal.

Online Poker Laws

Online Poker is a definite no-no in Tennessee. See above section – ‘Online Casinos in Tennessee’ for further clarification.

History of Online & Land-Based Gambling in Tennessee

1906; A wholesale ban of all gambling in Tennessee introduced.

2003; Tennessee’s State ‘Education’ Lottery begins.

2005; Tennessee’s Attorney-General clarifies that Poker remains illegal.

2010; Charitable Gambling (Bingo and raffles) begins under strict guidelines after huge floods in the state, to raise funds for those left homeless.

2016; Fantasy Sports Act legalizes DFS competitions in Tennessee.

2017; Bills SB 1908, and SB 346 / HB 814 create the State Horse Racing Commission.

2019: Tennessee adopted online sports betting with legalization bill HB 0001

To read more about Tennessee’s Online Sports Betting Laws Click Here