The Senate State and Local Government Committee reconvened on Wednesday, April 14 for its final session of the calendar year.
The committee had four gambling-related bills listed on the agenda for consideration. However, members only approved one.
Tennessee sports betting bills sprinkled throughout hearing
Legislators have introduced multiple sports betting bills in Tennessee this year. Each of them looks to reduce future sportsbook infractions, better outline penalties, and further specify violation procedures.
Although many bills were introduced, only SB 0588 passed yesterday. It allows the Sports Wagering Advisory Council to meet and make decisions on its own, separate from the Lottery Board.
When discussing this bill, Chairman Richard Briggs noted the regulatory issues that have arisen in the first few months of legal sports betting. Some of these issues stemmed from the lack of proper protocols being followed during emergency meetings and disciplinary action.
He suggested that a different regulatory structure altogether may have to be considered in the future.
For now though, the bill passed with unanimous support. Pending further legislative confirmation, the Sports Wagering Advisory Council will have more autonomy and authority when it comes to making decisions about sports betting in the state.
Next up on the docket was SB 1301. This bill aims to reduce the number of days from ten days to five days that a Tennessee sportsbook can request additional information from a bettor in order to verify their identity.
Sen. Jeff Yarbro filed the bill in February in response to proxy betting activity that unfolded during the Super Bowl on multiple Tennessee sportsbooks.
Seventy-four player accounts were suspended, causing legislators to call for stronger restrictions. Ultimately though, the Senate State and Local Government Committee deferred action on the bill until next year.
The final bill, SB 1056, seeks to redistribute the 80% cut of sports betting privilege tax revenue currently allotted to the Tennessee Education Lottery’s (TEL) Lottery For Education account. In this scenario, K-12 public school systems would receive funds for use on school building maintenance and construction.
Sen. Brian Kelsey suggested it might be more appropriate to wait until next year, when a full year’s worth of sports betting financial statistics could be assessed. The committee agreed, moving consideration to the 2022 calendar.
Payday loan bill pushed to next year
Proposed bill SB 1029 was scheduled to be last on the agenda for the day – and for the entire year.
Tennessee has been waiting weeks for a decision on this bill, which creates stronger regulations between sportsbooks and payday loan companies operating under the same roof. The committee rescheduled last week’s hearing due to time constraints. And before that, members postponed the initial hearing in order to give Action 24/7 representatives time to testify.
To better understand the need for this bill, some important backstory is necessary. In February, the TEL approved the vendor license of Tennessee payday loan company Advance Financial.
This allows bettors on Nashville-based sportsbook Action 24/7 to deposit into their sports betting accounts under the same roof where they can obtain a high-interest loan.
Tennessee lawmakers quickly raised an eyebrow, introducing SB 1029 on Feb. 10.
In March, the TEL suspended local sportsbook Action 24/7’s operating license due to various legal issues.
After a Nashville court judge decided the TEL did not take the appropriate steps for suspension, the sportsbook’s license was reinstated. Although the TEL sought to address the suspension in a subsequent hearing, the judge deemed that the TEL couldn’t have a redo on the issue.
Now that the sportsbook is operating once again, a resolution to this bill is more important than ever. Unfortunately, the session concluded without the committee discussing the bill.
It instead moves to General Subcommittee for future consideration.
Until then, payday loans and sportsbooks will exist side by side in the state.