Tennessee Becomes Quickest Sports Betting Market To Reach $1 Billion In Bets

Posted on May 11, 2021

Tennessee has become the fastest state in sports betting history to generate over $1 billion in handle.

Tennessee Education Lottery (TEL) CEO Rebecca Hargrove revealed initial Tennessee sports betting revenue numbers for the month of April in a Sports Wagering Advisory Council (SWAC) meeting on Tuesday, May 11.

Sports betting handle dips in the month of April

Sportsbooks generated a gross handle of $172.4 million and the state gathered a privilege tax of $2.8 million in April. This amounts to roughly $14 million in adjusted gross income for sportsbooks.

April handle is down 13.6% from March, when Tennessee bettors went into a frenzy with March Madness. During March, wagering totaled $205.9 million.

Many markets experienced a betting dip in April. The sports betting world is now relying solely on regular-season baseball and basketball, instead of peak betting interest from March Madness and the Super Bowl.

Even heading into the slow summer betting months, Tennessee leads the pack.

Since November’s launch, sports bettors have wagered nearly $1.1 billion in the state. That handle has generated an overall privilege tax of $18.5 million for Tennessee.

The only other state to come close to $1 billion in handle during its first six months of operation was New Jersey, which hit the mark in its seventh month of operation.

And Tennessee’s market continues to grow.

Four new sportsbook apps wait to join Tennessee

Although seven Tennessee sportsbooks are now live, only six books operated throughout the month of April.

Tennessee’s seventh sportsbook, WynnBET, went live on April 30.

During the meeting, Hargrove revealed that four other operator applications are currently pending. Several other brands have also reached out and expressed interest.

Two of those operators seek to add peer-to-peer wagering to their platforms if permitted. TEL Executive Vice President Alonda McCutcheon reported that peer-to-peer wagering would, in fact, be lawful, so long as the adjusted gross income calculations were done according to the statute.

Regulators would need to create rules for this type of wagering before it could go live in the state, as none exist at the moment.

For now, the operators are content with joining the market under traditional wagering guidelines.

McCutcheon said the TEL expects Tennessee to have twice as many operators in the future as what it has right now. That’s a promising statement for the future of Tennessee sports betting.

Sports Wagering Advisory Council granted regulatory power

This rapid growth of Tennessee betting has also led to some growing pains.

On the call, the Board and SWAC discussed the regulatory future of Tennessee sports betting. For the last few months, the Senate has been voting on a bill that would change who has regulatory control over the market. On May 5, the Senate passed SB 0588.

This bill grants the SWAC control over Tennessee sports betting instead of the TEL.

The SWAC will take over the role from the TEL on January 1, 2022.

Hargrove suggested ways the two groups could continue to operate until the SWAC officially takes over at the beginning of the year. For instance, the TEL can continue to take calls and answer questions from operators, or all applications could be temporarily put on pause.

As the governing authority for sports gaming, the council will have the authority to hire its own staff and promulgate its own rules. For now, the TEL Board will remain the governing body for the remainder of the year.

Everyone agreed the TEL will retain the ability to approve licensees and take disciplinary actions until the switch happens.

Once the bill becomes law, the board will assist the council in facilitating the transfer of power and duties.

The TEL put together a budget complete with suggestions regarding the 12 core people needed to successfully implement sports betting in the state. Hargrove expressed her concern about being able to keep up with the state’s increase in operators without hiring new staff.

The SWAC must first hire an executive director before continuing with the process. Going forward, the lottery’s contributions will be determined by the SWAC.

The SWAC will hold a subsequent meeting in June to discuss the next steps.

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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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