Regulators have given two new sportsbooks the thumbs up in Tennessee. Barstool Sportsbook along with a brand new social sports betting brand, Wagr, will soon join the Tennessee market.
Now, nine sports betting apps are approved within the state.
Wagr gets social sports betting approval
The Sports Wagering Committee of the Tennessee Education Lottery (TEL) held a special meeting on Aug. 31, 2021 to discuss the approval of two new operators.
Committee members Pearl Shaw, John Croslin and chair William Carver were in attendance along with select members of the TEL.
TEL Vice President Alonda McCutcheon revealed Wagr was the first operator up for discussion.
Wagr is a new social sports betting platform backed by Reddit Co-Founder Alexis Ohanian’s company Seven Seven Six. Tennessee is the first state to officially approve the platform.
The company was founded on April 8, 2020. It established its Tennessee business license on Jan. 4, 2021 in preparation of a potential approval.
Now that its platform is greenlit, Wagr will relocate its headquarters to Nashville before the end of the year.
Regulators must review Wagr’s recently-hired compliance and AML directors for suitability before launch. The brand also has to complete its integrity and security assessments.
Social wagering different from peer-to-peer
Wagr Co-Founder Eliana Eskinazi spoke at today’s meeting, stressing the difference between social sports betting and peer-to-peer wagering, the latter of which the committee has traditionally avoided.
While peer-to-peer platforms incorporate exchange wagering, Wagr handles its financials in the same way as a traditional operator.
Externally, the app may function as if two people are betting against each other. Ultimately, however, bettors are still wagering against Wagr.
Bettors never exchange money directly. Instead, Wagr accumulates these bets and then provides a payout to the winning party.
Wagr specifically designed its platform to adhere to Tennessee’s rules and regulations, calculating adjusted gross income the same as any other sportsbook.
Wagr still sets the odds, which it sources from Sportradar, and it will initially feature point spread betting exclusively.
TEL CEO Rebecca Hargrove interjected, reminding the committee that while peer-to-peer betting is technically permissible according to statute, neither the board nor the committee have officially approved this method.
Eskinazi again attempted to steer members away from “peer-to-peer” phrasing when describing Wagr’s approach, saying that the term opens up a Pandora’s box when it comes to ideas about how the platform functions.
The committee officially approved Wagr’s license, permitting the company to move forward with its launch timeline as a social wagering app and not as a peer-to-peer platform.
If all goes according to plan, the new sportsbook looks to make its introduction to Tennessee on Nov. 1 2021.
Eskinazi expressed her enthusiasm for the launch in a statement to PlayTenn, saying:
“We are absolutely thrilled that Tennessee will be the first state to experience Wagr. The sense of community and kindness that we’ve felt here – in addition to the passionate sports teams and fans – has been incredibly energizing. We could not be more excited to bring social and inclusive sports betting to Tennessee.”
Stoolies prepare for Barstool Sportsbook Tennessee launch
The second sportsbook approved during the meeting boasts a far more nationally recognized name. Barstool Sportsbook, a brand from Penn National Gaming, has been making its swift ascent in the US since its debut one year ago.
The brand launched in Colorado, New Jersey and Virginia this August. It will also go live in Arizona on Sept. 9.
Now, that growing list will soon include Tennessee.
McCutcheon noted that although the company meets requirements, is financially stable, and is in full compliance, it must still address a handful of factors prior to launch.
For instance, investigators must approve the company’s IT analysis and integrity assessment.
The board welcomed comment from Penn Sports Interactive Compliance Director Rhea Loney and Chief Compliance Officer Chris Soriano.
Loney explained that the brand takes its commitment to patrons very seriously, regarding compliance as the most important factor.
Croslin called attention to Penn’s significant financial loss in 2020, stressing the importance of ensuring that Penn’s other ventures don’t negatively affect its ability to pay out Tennessee bettors.
Loney responded by noting this year’s increased player spending, highlighting the brand’s continued improvements from a financial stability and suitability perspective.
After consideration, the committee members unanimously approved Barstool Sportsbook, though they made no mention of a potential launch date.
Carver emphasized the fact that while both Barstool and Wagr are now approved, each Tennessee launch is contingent on them meeting full requirements.
Both apps are likely keen to launch in time to capture some of the Tennessee Titans betting action this season.