Tennessee Lawmaker Pushes Back Prediction For Sports Betting Launch To 2020 NBA Playoffs

Posted on January 8, 2020 - Last Updated on February 12, 2020

Less than a week after Tennessee Representative Rick Staples hoped that Tennessee sports betting would be live in time for March Madness, reality set in. Staples’ hopes have now moved back to the NBA Playoffs.

Those are set to begin on April 18, 2020. It may be uncertain whether or not the Memphis Grizzlies will be part of the postseason, but when it comes to sports betting going live in that time, this is a much more realistic timeline than what Staples was suggesting earlier this month.

A month can make a big difference for Tennessee sports betting

To a casual observer, the beginning of the NCAA basketball tournament and the NBA playoffs are just about a month apart. The question becomes, why are those four weeks such a big deal?

Four weeks is a tremendous amount of extra time in this context. The extra month means more time for everyone involved in the process.

Consider also that “Selection Sunday,” the day on which the NCAA men’s tournament brackets drop, is just 11 weeks from this coming Sunday, Jan. 12. In order to create something out of nothing, which is what the product is right now, much is left to do.

The state is very early in the process right now. Currently, there isn’t much of a framework for the activity.

Here’s what TN regulators have to accomplish

The state has crossed a few items off the checklist of tasks necessary for launch. Most of them still remain unfulfilled, however.

The completed items are a full Tennessee Sports Betting Council (TSBC), draft regulations and a public comment period. Those are really just preliminary steps although important.

The immediate task is the consideration of those comments. That’s part of adjusting the draft regulations for finalization.

Once that’s done, the TSBC will make the license applications available. The council will then collect the fees and consider applications. After deciding how to move on each, the TSBC will likely set a go-live authorization date.

That may come at a different time for each license holder or the council might decide that a group of licensees can start actually accepting wagers on the same date. Even after those dates are set, the sportsbooks will still need to pass inspections by the regulators to ensure compliance with the regulations.

Then it is on sports betting operators to get started

The wait isn’t all about the regulatory side, however. There is a part of this process that is wholly dependent on the sportsbook operators as well.

Once the regulations are finalized, hopeful licensees can start the work to get their mobile apps and websites to get them up to code.

Fortunately, they can do that while they await the decisions on their applications to save time. For many operators, this will also not be the first state where they have launched online betting.

There is a natural incentive for the sportsbook to move quickly. If they get approval on their license application but aren’t yet ready to start taking bets, that creates lost potential revenue.

The state can help with the speed of this process as well. The council can do that by adopting an array of regulations that mirror sportsbooks’ common practices in other states, like removing the 85% of handle cap on sportsbooks’ annual payout in the draft regulations.

The fewer adjustments sportsbook operators have to make to their existing products, the quicker they can get to market. The middle of March was too optimistic for all of this activity. The middle of April, however, is more realistic.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. 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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