Sports Wagering Advisory Council Looks To Clean The Slate With New Regulations

Posted on June 29, 2021 - Last Updated on June 30, 2021

The Sports Wagering Advisory Council (SWAC) held its second meeting as the regulatory body of Tennessee sports betting on Tuesday, June 29.

During the meeting, the SWAC discussed the ongoing search for an executive director and the timeline for establishing a new set of permanent sports wagering rules for the state.

Search for SWAC executive director continues

Billy Orgel, chairman of the nine-member council, called the meeting to order, making a motion to approve the minutes of the group’s previous meeting on June 1.

First up on the agenda came the topic of hiring an executive director.

Council members favored the idea of acquiring a search firm to help secure a broader range of the most qualified, experienced candidates for the position. The problem, however, is that the SWAC faces a tight deadline in that they need to be up and running by the first of the year.

The SWAC will officially take over the role of regulator on Jan. 1, 2022. It has until then to begin establishing itself as an entity and hiring key personnel.

Councilmember Brian Fazenbaker suggested hiring a search firm to field potential applicants, while at the same time running a parallel application process where a subcommittee is appointed and applications are reviewed.

If the Request For Proposal process takes several months, an interim director could fill the space in between.

Samuel Lee spoke up, agreeing with the idea of the SWAC conducting its own search in addition to hiring a search firm to locate candidates.

“Every day that goes by, we’re losing an opportunity to build infrastructure.”

Tom Lee concurred, saying the interim director should first and foremost be someone who has an intimate knowledge of state government. He or she would not, however, be eligible for the position of executive director.

TEL CEO Rebecca Hargrove then shared her opinion, urging the SWAC to move as quickly as possible. With the nation’s sports betting industry evolving so rapidly, she said, eligible professionals in the industry are being snatched up by other states in a similar predicament.

Sports Wagering Advisory Council discusses new rules

Discussion then shifted over to Tom Lee, who raised the issue of updating current Tennessee sports betting regulations. He also laid out a potential timeline for implementing the SWAC’s new structure.

Going forward, all rulemaking conducted by the Council will be open to public scrutiny and comment via a public hearing. Only then will it advance to legislature and be ratified into law.

It will be virtually impossible for the Council to implement permanent rules by Jan. 1. Emergency rules can be in effect for six months, but permanent rules must be in place before they expire.

Lee suggested that a special committee could propose initial emergency rules to the Council during its September meeting. Then by November, permanent rules would be in the process of being implemented.

Tom Lee will chair this committee, and Sam Lee and Kandace Stewart will round out the committee’s trio of members.

Along with rulemaking, the Council’s other action items included:

  • Funding
  • Technology
  • Website
  • Office Space
  • Contracts

Updates from the Tennessee Lottery

Updates from the Tennessee Education Lottery (TEL) came as the second-to-last item on the agenda. Hargrove announced that investigator Danny DiRienzo had resigned from his position, effective this week, to accept a new role at GeoComply.

As a result, the TEL’s sports wagering committee has dwindled to seven members.

From now until the end of the year, the TEL’s diminished team will focus on four operator license renewals. Additionally, six other applicants are nearing the end of their review process and will soon require approval.

Hargrove also announced initial sports betting revenue numbers for the month of May. Bettors wagered $160.9 million in gross wagers for the month, resulting in the state accumulating a privilege tax of $2.7 million.

This amounts to a total of over $1.2 billion in bets since sports betting’s launch in November 2020.

The SWAC will meet once again at the end of July. Until then, the journey continues to establish itself as the new regulatory force in Tennessee sports betting.

Photo by Dreamstime
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Alec Cunningham

As a college athlete, Alec Cunningham played Division II golf at Tusculum University. She graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Professional Writing. She then returned to her love of written word in 2000 after working in the music industry as a concert promoter, tour manager and artist developer. As a journalist, she's covered a variety of topics and currently specializes in Tennessee online sports betting and Virginia casino news. She served as a panelist at this year's All American Sports Betting Summit, discussing the ever-evolving role of women in the gambling industry.

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