Tennessee may not have casinos or racetracks, but soon it will offer online sports betting. The Volunteer State is one of nearly two dozen states that have legalized sports betting since the Supreme Court ruling striking down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).
The state officially legalized Tennessee sports betting in May 2019, despite Gov. Bill Lee refusing to sign the bill. Now, it is a matter of getting the industry off the ground.
Once launched, the TN sports betting industry will consist of 10 online sportsbooks open to all bettors in the state over the age of 21. The Tennessee Lottery Commission (TEL) will oversee and regulate the state’s online betting apps. You will likely see major sportsbook players from other states, like FanDuel and DraftKings. There is room for some new players to get into the Volunteer State too though.
Tennessee’s unique status as a state with hardly any gambling and more open licensing than other states means TN could surprise us as the industry develops.
PlayTenn is here to cover all the latest TN sports betting news, including which operators will be in the state, when they will launch, and what kind of online betting apps and bets they will offer.
When it comes to TN sports betting, we currently don’t know more than what we do know. We certainly know the basics. Once live, people in Tennessee over the age of 21 will be able to use their phones and computers to bet online at approved and licensed online sportsbooks. The group overseeing the industry is the Tennessee Educational Lottery (TEL).
Unlike some states where the lottery oversees sports betting, Tennessee will offer bettors more than one option when it comes to sportsbooks. However, there are quite a few things the TEL and operators need to check off their to-do list before anyone is placing a bet in the Volunteer State.
Here is a look at what needs to happen before TN sports betting can go live:
The TEL advisory board and regulators both met in mid-February. While they addressed some issues that arose during the public comment period. Multiple groups voiced concerns about pushing through regulations on the current timetable. Instead, the groups will meet again and continue to iron out quality regulations to oversee Tennessee sports betting.
At this rate, don’t expect any operators to start taking bets in Tennessee before the fall.
Given the state’s need to establish both a sports betting infrastructure and a body to regulate and oversee sports betting, the timeline for launch in Tennessee is inevitably longer than in some other states.
Essentially, the Tennessee Lottery had to start completely from scratch, appointing its Advisory Board, setting up the employees, budget, and then, of course, writing regulations to dictate the industry. This unique set up means it won’t be a matter of weeks before sports betting launches in Tennessee, but rather a matter of months.
One lawmaker optimistically suggested March Madness as a launch date only to amend it to the 2020 NBA Playoffs.
Even that is a lofty goal. Realistically summer 2020 seems like the best bet for online sports betting in Tennessee.
In November 2019 the 10-person sports betting advisory council submitted its first proposed set of regulations for TN sports betting. What followed was a 45-day period for public comment. With several contentious propositions in the regulations, including a 15% hold mandate and atypical parlay betting terms, that period generated hundreds of comments.
Now regulators are working hard to synthesize those comments and adjust regulations. Then, at the sports betting advisory council’s next meeting on Feb. 18, the council will look over the new draft of regulations. That draft and the Sports Wagering Advisory Board’s comments and review then move on to the TEL Board. The TEL can choose to adopt or ignore the Advisory Board’s comments as they see fit.
Once the TEL Board finalizes those regulations, the process of applying for licenses can begin. Even that could take some time though, as the TEL has up to 90 days to respond to each applicant.
The good news for sportsbook operators is that there are no in-state casinos or racetracks these organizations have to partner with in order to access the TN mobile betting market.
With that in mind, the process for getting into the Tennessee online sports betting industry is more wide-open than just about any other state. In theory, a company that has no background in sports betting at all could potentially apply for a Tennessee sportsbook. With no limit on the number of the available licenses, there is potential for any newcomer with a satisfactory application and money to pay the upfront license fee of $750,000 could get involved.
Now, that upfront fee is much smaller than other states, but it is still a large amount of many that may detract those who are not involved in wagering elsewhere in the US. For those operators who are used to paying millions of dollars for licenses to get into a new state, the small cost of doing business in Tennessee should not be a problem.
With that in mind, here’s a look at the more probable operators we will see opening up online sportsbooks in Tennessee:
When states first started offering sports betting post-PAPSA, the industry knew the daily fantasy sports players FanDuel and DraftKings would be involved. Little did they know they would jump out to an early market advantage despite competing with casino companies that have been in the gambling business for years.
FanDuel set itself up well for sports betting, partnering with key organizations like The Meadowlands in New Jersey and Boyd Gaming, a casino company with properties in 10 states. Some of those properties have actually been taking bets from Tennesseans for over a year, namely Sam’s Town in Tunica.
Tennesseans are already familiar with the FanDuel brand both through Mississippi sportsbooks and DFS. What also helps the FanDuel brand is that its sports betting is universal across states, so as other states like Illinois and North Carolina launch as well, it will be easy for TN bettors to use their FanDuel accounts in any state where the app is active.
Like FanDuel, DraftKings also has a retail sportsbook in Mississippi as well as daily fantasy sports contests for TN customers. Unfortunately for DraftKings (at least when it comes to TN betting), that retail sportsbook is in D’Iberville, just outside of Biloxi.
What that means is that FanDuel’s book is roughly a 30-minute drive from Memphis, TN. Meanwhile, it would take close to seven hours for Tennessee bettors to drive to Scarlet Pearl Casino and bet with DraftKings.
Nonetheless, like FanDuel, the DraftKings app is universal across states, so any TN bettors with accounts in other states may choose to stay loyal to the brand and easily start funding and betting their DraftKings TN account.
There may be no Caesars properties within Tennessee state lines, but it is no exaggeration to say the casino corporation has the state surrounded. Here is a look at how far some Caesars properties are from major Tennessee cities:
Using its existing database of customers at these surrounding properties, not to mention the customers that frequent Caesars’ new owner, Eldorado Resorts, in Missouri, the company has a good batch of potential bettors to reach out to when TN sports betting starts.
When it comes to competing in Tennessee, BetRivers does not have brand recognition on its side. The online sportsbook’s parent company, Rush Street Entertainment, only operates casinos in Pennsylvania, New York, and Illinois.
The closest property to Tennessee is the Chicago-area Rivers Des Plaines Casino. Unfortunately, it is on the wrong side of Illinois to appeal to possible Tennessee companies.
Since Illinois residents will have to register for sports betting in person for the first 18 months sports betting is live in Illinois, the only customers BetRivers will pick up are ones that visit the property. It is highly unlikely southern Illinois residents will make the six-hour drive each way to do that.
What is working for BetRivers is that the company is working to be first to market in as many states as possible, including Indiana. While Indiana is not adjacent to Tennessee, it is close enough to the Volunteer State that TN bettors might be more familiar with the BetRivers name than they were a year ago.
There is hardly anyone in the US who doesn’t recognize the FOX brand. Most recognize FOX Sports as well. While the idea that the sports media company is involved in sports betting may still be news to some people, the FOX name is perhaps one of the most recognizable brands in all of sports betting.
With that in mind, it is certainly possible FOX Bet will try to leverage that brand awareness into a Tennessee online sportsbook. The Stars Group, which owns FOX Bet, currently has only launched the brand in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. However, with the lax requirements and low fees to come to Tennessee, it certainly seems possible it will expand south if given the chance.
The BetAmerica name may not ring a bell with many Tennesseans, but its parent company certainly will. Churchill Downs in neighboring Kentucky is considered to be one of the best horse racing companies there are.
While there are no racetracks in Tennessee, there is plenty of familiarity with the Kentucky Derby and the Bluegrass State racing industry. Moreover, advanced deposit wagering (ADW) through the BetAmerica racing app is already available in TN.
Once online betting goes live, you’ll be able to access the online sportsbooks from your desktop computer or your phone.
If you want to access online sportsbooks on your computer, you can access all the regulated operators on your desktop or laptop browser. Your computer will likely ask you to add an extension from GeoComply in order properly geolocate.
GeoComply is considered the top company when it comes to geolocation technology. The company works with every regulated market in the United States, so you should feel confident your computer will be safe and secure with the GeoComply extensions.
If you want to bet on your phone, more often than not, you will need to download an app to bet. The reason you can’t just pull out your cell phone and bet on your browser is that your device cannot geolocate to the degree necessary in order to meet regulatory requirements in most US markets.
What does it take to geolocate? Services like GeoComply use your IP address, your phone’s internal GPS system, and nearby cell phone towers to determine precisely where you are.
Since the laws for sports betting limits wagering to within the Tennessee borders, there are systems in place to ensure that no one can spoof locations using things like a VPN. With accuracy being paramount, it is possible those on the very edge of the state line may be mistakenly read as not in the state. However, regulators and operators would much rather have a false negative than a false positive, so they err on the side of caution.
Basically every online sportsbook has an Android app available to download directly from its website. The Google Play Store does not allow gambling apps, so don’t bother searching in there for the sports betting app you want to install.
Instead, go directly to the website of the app you are looking for and, most of the time, there will be a big button or notification letting you know to click on it to allow the download to begin.
You may receive some prompts from your phone about allowing third-party downloads. If you want to go ahead and change your settings in advance:
If you do not change settings in advance, a series of pop-ups when you try to download from a sports betting site that will lead you through the same menus as well.
Unlike Android, the Apple App Store allows gambling apps to be listed. However, not all online sportsbooks have betting apps that are listed in the Apple App Store. There is a solution for iPhone customers though, also from GeoComply.
Sports betting sites like BetRivers do not have an Apple app, but iPhone users need only download an app from GeoComply called GeoGuard. What this app does is provide the level of geolocation necessary to make betting on BetRivers on your phone’s browser possible.
Once you have the apps downloaded on your phone, you’ll notice several of them look and feel fairly similar. Most online sportsbooks use a simple, three-column setup.
Live betting (also known as in-game betting) will be new to most TN bettors, which involves betting on games already underway. It adds to the game excitement while you watch. Betting lines automatically adjust as the action unfolds. Tennessee law requires in-play betting uses data supplied by the pro leagues.
Cash-out betting is another new feature, which allows you to redeem a bet early. The action in the match (or matches for parlays) will determine the price you are offered to cash your bet in early.
The massive coverage of sports will really impress you. These include motorsports, golf, tennis, soccer and even geo-specific sports like rugby, cricket, or cycling.
With the sports betting apps regulated by the TEL, there should be no issues with payments. If any sort of problem does arise, customers can report problems directly to the Tennessee Lottery.
In other states, the books accept credit or debit cards, PayPal, and bank transfers. It is currently unclear if all of these options will be available in Tennessee as well.
The current regulations state that all transactions and deposits on sports betting sites need to begin with a cash transaction. As written, that means there are potentially no credit card deposits. There will be plenty of alternatives though, including e-wallets like PayPal, prepaid cards, and debit and ACH transactions.
There really is not a state like Tennessee when it comes to sports betting. Its unique status as a state with minimal gambling options means it is largely dealing with new territory for TN bettors and lawmakers.
The results so far are that the proposed regulations are rife with problems. The good news is that very little of the problems with regulations are codified into law, so there is still time and potential for these issues to get resolved.
Before going into detail about proposed regulations that might happen, let’s run down what is already in the law when it comes to Tennessee sports betting.
When it comes to the basic elements of the Tennessee sports betting laws, these are the important numbers to know:
Compared to other states, the licensing fee is on the low side of things, while the tax rate is on the high side of things. Especially considering it will be an online-only marketplace.
Here is how all of the money generated by sports betting taxes and licenses is distributed to the state:
Moreover, TEL has to put together an annual report looking at how this 5% of sports betting tax dollars is being used to curb problem gambling in the state. That report will go to the governor as well as the speakers of the senate and house. The report will include itemized lists of how the money is spent as well as progress reports on addressing problem gambling issues.
Those Vols fans and backers of the Vanderbilt Commodores, be aware that there are some limits on what you can bet on regarding college sports. Some states ban betting on college games altogether, while others will not let people bet on state teams or events taking place within the state.
Tennessee sportsbooks will offer odds on college games, but one thing you will not find is any in-play betting. In-play betting, which offers updated odds after basically every play is a very popular form of wagering that will not be able during marquee events like the College Football Championship or March Madness.
Additionally, there are no prop bets on individual performances by college athletes nor will there be any bets related to possible injuries of players.
If in-game wagering sounds fun to you, be aware there are other limitations, but these will impact sportsbooks themselves more than you as a bettor.
Tennessee betting regulations stipulate that any book that offers in-game wagering has to use official data to power those bets. That means sportsbook operators will either need to work with the leagues directly or use the services of an approved data partner like Sportradar to power those services.
As mentioned, the proposed regulations for Tennessee sportsbooks include some interesting and unprecedented elements that could create problems for both bettors and sportsbooks alikes.
Here is a look at the three most problematic inclusions:
#1: The mandatory hold requirement
Should it make it into the final Tennessee betting regulations, the requirement that sportsbook hold onto to 92% of the amount wagered at all times could legitimately torpedo TN sports betting before it even begins. No state has ever mandated an amount of hold, which is a good thing, as in some new markets, hold is more like 5%. While the regulators have come down from 15% to 8%, the mandate still presents a number of potential problems for both operators and customers.
#2: Forced participation in the Global Lottery Monitoring Service (GLMS)
Requiring sportsbooks to utilize some sort of monitoring service is not uncommon in many state sports betting regulations. It is beneficial to utilize services like these to keep an eye out for any suspicious betting activity.
What is unusual is requiring to use a specific organization, in this case, the Global Lottery Monitoring Service (GLMS). The mandate raised some eyebrows largely because the CEO of the Tennessee Lottery, Rebecca Hargrove, has times to GLMS through her role as president of the World Lottery Association.
Given the prevalence of similar groups to GLMS with more sports betting focus, like Sports Wagering Integrity Monitoring Services (SWIMA), this extra hoop could be a potential deterrent for possible TN operators.
While most forms of gambling are illegal in Tennessee, there are a few options that already exist for Tennesseans that would like to gamble.
Unlike in many other states, Tennessee has a law which makes daily fantasy sports (DFS) contests legal.
Gov. Bill Haslam signed the bill in April 2016 even after the TN attorney general had published a negative opinion on DFS games.
Although there are many DFS sites, DraftKings and FanDuel dominate the market.
Unlike traditional sports betting, these sites let you enter contests. You pick a lineup of players and challenge other lineups to win money. These can be head-to-head contests, tournaments or one of many variations of these themes. Popular games include 50/50, where half the field doubles their money. You can also pick lineups and challenge many other people using either a single lineup or many variations of it.
With the big DFS companies setting up full sportsbooks in other states, it will be interesting to see how comprehensive betting affects participation in these picks contests.
Another way you can bet in TN right now is via the horse racing betting sites, also known as advanced deposit wagering (ADW) apps.
To be clear, pari-mutuel wagering is not expressly legal in Tennessee. There are no racetracks nor is there any sort of regulatory body that oversees horse racing in the state, as there is no horse racing.
However, there are no laws expressly outlawing ADW apps either. These apps accept wagers on horse races that run in regulated horse racing jurisdictions and the moneys go into regulated pari-mutuel wagering pools. In other words, while Tennessee has no oversight on these races, there are regulatory bodies making sure everything is on the up and up.
Three sites you can use for betting on these races are TwinSpires, TVG, and BetAmerica.
All three sites allow you to bet on horse races via pari-mutuel pools at racetracks across the country. In addition, they offer livestreams, past performance data, and plenty of ways to bet. You can bet win, show or draw, pick the finishers in the right order, or bet over several races with the “pick 5” and similar contests.
Tennessee sports betting is not even live yet, but plenty has already taken place to get us to this point. Here is a look at key dates in Tennessee sports betting history:
Rep. Rick Staples files a bill in the House to legalize sports betting in Tennessee. Concurrently, a similar bill is introduced in the Senate.
After clearing the House Government Operations Committee and the Finance committee, the bill underwent several revisions in order to get consensus for a vote. Once it became clear the sports betting bill would clear the House, the Senate quickly moved its companion bill through committee and on to a vote. Shortly after the House passed the sports betting bill on April 30, the Senate approved it as well, and it headed to Gov. Lee’s desk.
After a month with no action, Gov. Lee returned the bill to the legislature without his signature. While he did not veto it, it passed into law without his approval. With his decision, Lee included the following message:
I am returning the Tennessee Sports Gaming Act (HB0001/SB0016) to the General Assembly today without my signature. My full statement is below: pic.twitter.com/iolgR8G6J0
— Governor Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) May 24, 2019
Months passed as the lawmakers tasked with appointing members of the Sports Betting Advisory Council. It is November by the time the 10-person panel is set. Thankfully, they get to work quickly and a first draft of regulations appears shortly before Thanksgiving.
The 45-day public comment period produces over 300 comments criticizing the first round of proposed TN regulations. The advisory board has roughly a month to come up with a revised draft.
After a pair of meetings that addressed many concerns about the proposed regulations, lawmakers and other interested parties expressed concerns about the state of the regulations. As a result, the advisory board will meet once again to vote on and discuss the latest draft of regulations.
Sports bettors in Tennessee need to be at least 21 years old in order to wager. Online sportsbooks will utilize your date of birth and a partial Social Security number toverify your age before allowing you to bet.
No, if you are not within the state lines of Tennessee, you will not be allowed to wager on TN betting sites.
However, you also do not need to be a Tennessee resident in order to take part in a Tennessee online sportsbook. Anyone who is at least 21 years old and within state lines is eligible to bet online.
Online sportsbooks utilize geolocation technology to determine whether or not a bettor is within the state. On your computer, sportsbooks and geolocation providers like GeoComply use your IP address and a geolocation plugin to verify your location. If you are using a betting app on your phone, the app utilizes things like your phone’s GPS functionality and nearby cell phone towers to locate precisely where the bettor is.
The Tennessee Education Lottery (TEL) regulates and oversees all sports betting within the state.
Like all income, gambling winnings are subject to taxation and should be reported on your tax return. Be advised, you will not necessarily receive a W-2G gambling tax form from sports betting operators unless you trigger a certain threshold of winnings. For most sites, that amount is $5,000.
The $5,000 threshold is the number the majority of sportsbook use to trigger tax paperwork since that is the amount where casinos and sportsbooks are required to start withholding 25% of winnings for tax purposes.
When it comes to college sports betting in Tennessee, some things are on the table and other things aren’t.
You’ll be able to wager on collegiate sporting events as part of a parlay or with a spread or moneyline bet. You will not be able to do any in-game betting around college sports, nor will there be any prop bets based on an individual college athlete’s performance.