Tennessee Sports Betting Rules Missing The Mark On Parlays

Posted on December 16, 2019 - Last Updated on March 9, 2020

The first edition of sports betting rules for the Volunteer State contains a number of questionable items, but one takes the cake so far. Tennessee parlay regulations are unique as currently drafted.

The rule is different because it defies industry standards. If it survives into the state’s final version of legal sports betting regulations, it could give other states’ markets an advantage.

What’s wrong with the Tennessee parlay regulations?

The current sports betting regulations contain an interesting rule on parlaying multiple events. It governs how sportsbooks decide whether a particular bet is a win versus a loss.

In Section 15.1.12 of the regulations, Item A addresses parlay wagers. Subsection 3 of Item A contains the peculiar language.

“If there is a tie (push) in one Event of the Parlay, one leg would be unsuccessful therefore, the Parlay would be deemed a loss.”

Sportsbooks not only across the US but all over the world don’t operate this way. The standard practice is to treat a push as exactly what it is — a push. Because of Tennessee’s deviation, a problem emerges.

A simple example to demonstrate a simple problem

To demonstrate the difference this rule would make, here’s an example. Suppose a bettor parlayed the outcomes of a Tennessee Titans regular-season game and a Memphis Grizzlies regular-season game together.

Now let’s say the bettor took both teams to beat the spread, and the Grizzlies covered. If the ticket also includes a bet on the Titans -3 and they win by exactly 3 points, that leg would be considered a push anywhere else.

In this case, in all other US states and around the world, the ticket would pay out as a win on a one-teamer (the bet on the Grizzlies). One leg resulting in a push wouldn’t nullify the bettor’s wins in the other legs.

Under Tennessee regulations, however, the bettor would lose the entire bet. While these parlays would be considered wins for the house, this situation would not be a win for Tennessee’s sports betting market.

Despite the convenience of online sports betting that the Volunteer State will offer, this tenet of the rules might drive potential wagerers away.

Why this rule runs counter to everyone’s best interest

Because consumers have choice in where they place their bets, any deviation in standard practice is a competitive disadvantage. This rule might cause bettors to travel to other states or, worse yet, keep bettors on the “black market.”

If that happens, any extra revenue the sportsbooks may get from these extra parlay wins would be nullified by diminished action. Because sportsbooks would see less revenue, the Tennessee Education Lottery would see fewer tax dollars.

Additionally, losing detracts from consumer enjoyment of the sports betting experience. It’s already difficult enough to win parlays without state regulations providing another obstacle.

This additional and strange disadvantage could result in bettors taking their business elsewhere. That’s a loss for everyone involved.

Fortunately, the TEL has time to correct this glaring flaw. The regulations are not yet final, and Tennesseans can voice their opinion on the matter during the ongoing public comment period.

Hopefully, this is one area in which the TEL learns and adjusts. If not, this will be one of the greatest examples of a flawed regulatory structure in the modern legal sports betting era.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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