In A Holding Pattern: Still Waiting For A Full Tennessee Sports Betting Council

Posted on August 13, 2019 - Last Updated on March 9, 2020

New names occupy two of the posts on the new council responsible for regulating Tennessee sports betting. Having a full nine-member council is crucial to the launch of sports betting in Tennessee.

Before former Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada gave up his position, he made his choices for two positions on the council. The two have to wait for the full balance of the nine names to be announced before they can begin their task, however.

Casada’s choices for the Tennessee Sports Betting Council

Casada is still a member of the Tennessee House, just no longer the state’s speaker. The law instructs that position to select three people for the nine-member council.

The day before he resigned his leadership, Casada filled 2/3 of the posts his position afforded him. His choices were Knoxville attorney John Valliant Jr. and lobbyist Thomas Lee.

Valliant will serve a three-year term and Lee a four-year term. New Speaker Cameron Sexton is responsible for selecting a third member.

It’s uncertain how quickly that will happen, but what’s clear is why Casada chose Lee and Valliant.

Lee’s experience relevant to sportsbook selections

Lee is a former member of the Tennessee Judicial Council and the executive editor of the Vanderbilt Law Review. He was most recently registered with the state in 2016 as a lobbyist for a benefits administration company.

In that role, Lee helped the company that employed him to gain access to Tennessee’s unemployment benefits contract. That experience is relevant for his new position.

The Tennessee Sports Betting Council will decide which sportsbook operators are allowed market access in the Volunteer State. Lee’s experience with business and the law make him qualified.

Lee isn’t the only one of the two with relevant experience in business and the law, however. Valliant also checks both boxes.

Valliant known for his work representing land developers

While Valliant’s practice includes criminal defense and family law, the facet of his practice that got him this position was commercial-client representation.

Valliant has successfully represented the interest of major land developers in Tennessee. He is one of three attorneys about whom it has been said, “nothing gets built in Knoxville without” them.

That experience educating clients in particulars of the law as it pertains to their interests and negotiating rights to development contracts makes him qualified to determine the particulars of sports betting in the Volunteer State.

It’s obvious Lee and Valliant have relevant experience to sit on the Tennessee Sports Betting Council, but it’s unclear how quickly they will get to work on the endeavor.

What about the other positions?

There are two other Tennessee governmental figures responsible for making three selections of their own for the council. Those are the governor and the speaker of the Tennessee Senate.

Randy McNally, the speaker of the Republican-controlled Tennessee Senate, has already done most of his job. He has appointed former FBI agent Brian Fazenbaker and Chief Deputy District Attorney General Samuel Lee (no relation to Thomas Lee).

McNally is expected to make his third selection soon, but it’s unknown when Gov. Bill Lee (no relation to Samuel or Thomas) will make his three choices. The sooner that happens, the more quickly legal sports betting in the Volunteer State can actually begin.

Why sports betting can’t start until the council rules

Sports betting is already legal in Tennessee. That doesn’t mean legal sportsbooks are accepting wagers from Tennessee residents and visitors, however.

That won’t begin until regulations are in place for the activity. The council is responsible for administrating Tennessee sports betting and enacting rules.

Among those duties are processing license applications and collecting fees and taxes along with the possible creation of a self-exclusion program for those with compulsive gambling issues.

When Lee, McNally, and Sexton make the rest of their selections, those processes can begin. When that will happen is almost worth posting a line on in and of itself.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Chicago. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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