Tennessee Sports Betting: A Year In Review

Posted on November 12, 2021

Tennessee sports betting celebrated its one-year anniversary on Nov. 1, 2021.

Complete with new operators, new regulators and new rules, quite a few things have changed over the last 12 months.

As Tennessee enters its second year of operation, we take a look back at the good, the bad and the ugly of sports betting’s first year in the Volunteer State.

Tennessee sportsbook apps multiply in first year

The Tennessee Lottery was the only form of legal gambling in the state before last year. Now, the state has quickly evolved into one of sports betting’s most successful up-and-coming jurisdictions.

Tennessee’s industry launched last November as an online-only market with just four operators:

  • BetMGM
  • FanDuel
  • DraftKings
  • Action 24/7

These sportsbooks quickly joined forces with local pro sports leagues. BetMGM was the first to announce a partnership with the Tennessee Titans.

FanDuel came next, revealing a deal with the Memphis Grizzlies. And DraftKings followed quickly behind, becoming the Official Sports Betting Sponsor of the Nashville Predators.

Since then, four other operators have also launched apps in the state:

  • TwinSpires
  • Caesars Sportsbook
  • WynnBET
  • Barstool Sportsbook

Another Tennessee sportsbook, Wagr, was conditionally approved by regulators in August, but remains on the sidelines for now. The operator has to clear a few final steps before launching.

A handful of additional applicants are also currently making their way through the operator application process.

Sportsbooks learn the lay of the land

Tennessee’s state-specific regulations came with a variety of unique rules for operators to follow.

As a result, sportsbooks were forced to spend some time getting familiar with Tennessee’s distinct terrain. And some did a better job of abiding by these rules than others.

Nashville-based startup Action 24/7 was the first to get into hot water. In March, the operator became the nation’s first sportsbook to have its license suspended.

Action 24/7 took the matter to court, where the judge concluded that the Tennessee Education Lottery (TEL) failed to follow due process during the suspension, and ultimately reinstated Action’s license.

Since then, other operators have incurred minor infractions for issues including offering odds on unapproved wagering markets.

Tennessee sports betting makes a regulatory shift

Tennessee sports betting launched with the Tennessee Education Lottery as its regulator. The Sports Wagering Advisory Council (SWAC) was originally integrated into its meetings to provide advice and suggestions to the regulators.

However, in April 2020, lawmakers passed SB 0588, which made the SWAC the new sports betting regulator come Jan. 1, 2022.

In preparation for the shift, the SWAC has been holding its own meetings, formulating its own staff, and devising a new set of regulations for the state.

Mary Beth Thomas, the SWAC’s new executive director, began her first day on the job on Nov. 1, 2021, exactly one year after the state’s initial launch. During her short time in the position, she has already secured a designated SWAC office and hired three key personnel.

The SWAC intends to instate a set of emergency regulations by the end of December, at which point it will have 180 days to lock in a final set of permanent rules for the state.

Tennessee nears $2 billion in bets

Tennessee sports betting has taken a wild ride during its first year in existence. Bettors dipped their toes into the market last November, placing $131 million in wagers during the debut month.

Betting hit a peak in January with football in the post-season, leading to $211 million in wagers.

Tennessee became the quickest state to reach $1 billion in bets back in May. Now the state is about to step over the $2 billion threshold.

After a slow summer, revenue rose once again in September as eager football fans geared into action. September 2021 revenue bested Tennessee’s previous record-high month of January by over $46 million.

Although we won’t know the exact financial results of Tennessee’s first year until October’s revenue report is released, the Volunteer State remains on pace to become the fifth-fastest state to reach $2 billion in bets.

A look into 2022

The upcoming year looks to be another evolutionary period for Tennessee sports betting as the SWAC settles into its regulatory role and establishes a new set of permanent regulations.

More sportsbooks look to enter the state, presenting players with a variety of new wagering options. And ideally, this added operator competition will result in plenty of enticing promotions and bonuses for bettors.

Tennesseans can also look forward to seeing more local bars and restaurants integrate sports betting promotions into their business model, as operators explore new marketing opportunities in this mobile-only market.

Only time will tell what new records Tennessee sports betting will manage to shatter in 2022.

Photo by Shutterstock
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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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