Why You Can’t Bet On US Elections At Legal Tennessee Sportsbooks

Posted on October 29, 2020 - Last Updated on October 30, 2020

With the launch of legal sportsbooks in Tennessee and the final day of voting in the 2020 election both just days away, it seems like a perfect opportunity for some elections betting markets. Not so fast, my friend.

Wagering money on the outcomes of elections, at any level, is illegal in the Volunteer State. It could be wildly popular, but so far, there isn’t much interest in making it happen.

Tennessee law prohibits elections betting markets

Sportsbooks all over the country aren’t just avoiding action on US elections because they lack the capability and/or desire. To date, there is no US jurisdiction that allows wagering on the results of people’s voting.

That goes for Tennessee as well. Elections are not on the lottery’s list of allowable events. For that reason, licensed operators in the state won’t accept those wagers. There are also plenty of questions about elections betting at the federal level.

The general feeling about wagering on elections right now is that the reward, while it could be significant, is not worth the risk. Lawmakers who recently passed sports betting laws aren’t very excited about those sportsbooks turning around and taking bets on elected officials.

It’s hard to know exactly how much demand there is for this type of wagering if it were legal; it is anecdotally popular in both the UK and at offshore (illegally operating) sportsbooks. There would certainly be tens of millions of dollars bet on the presidential election if it were legal at US sportsbooks.

The regulatory system doesn’t leave legal sportsbook operators entirely unable to capitalize on this moment, however. It just requires them to be a little more creative.

Free-to-play election pools are a legal option

You may have already seen DraftKings, FanDuel, and other sportsbook apps advertising free-to-play election pools on their apps/websites. That free-to-play designation makes all the difference.

Even though you can win real prizes playing those games, it’s not considered gambling because you don’t have to pay anything to participate. So that’s where you can potentially win some prizes with your political savvy completely on the level.

You might wonder, then, what’s in it for the sportsbooks in that situation?

Especially in states without legal sports betting, these free pools help companies like DraftKings and FanDuel boost their customer bases by collecting user email addresses.

Outside of these pool contests, there’s no way to legally gamble on the outcomes of elections in Tennessee. It doesn’t look like that will change anytime soon, either, given that no market in the US seems to have any intention of dipping a toe in those waters.

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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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