Bill To Switch Up Leadership Over TN Sports Betting Is Dead For This Year

Posted on May 29, 2020 - Last Updated on May 28, 2020

An attempt to officially transfer authority over sports betting from the Tennessee Lottery Board of Directors to the Sports Betting Advisory Council is dead as of Thursday.

That means the same body that instituted a 10% hold requirement will continue to solely regulate the industry for the foreseeable future. It also keeps the TN Sports Betting Council in its advisory role.

How Lottery Board kept its authority

HB 2844, sponsored by TN Rep. Andrew Farmer, was part of a meeting by members of the TN House’s Departments and Agencies Subcommittee. When the subcommittee’s chair, Rep. Bob Ramsey, reached that item on the agenda, it was like ripping a Band-Aid off.

Ramsey quickly informed the rest of the committee members that the bill had been taken off notice. He then moved on to the next item on the agenda with no further commentary.

When a legislative committee takes a bill off notice, that means the committee won’t be taking any more action on that piece of legislation during the current term. Because HB 2844 isn’t on the calendars of any other TN House committees, it’s essentially dead.

A Senate companion bill, SB 2216, was referred to the TN Senate State and Local Government Committee on Feb. 10. It has seen no activity since that date, which suggests it, too, will fade into oblivion.

Information on why these bills lacked support is scant. It could have something to do with the board’s adoption of sports betting regulation in early March. At least one prominent figure in the state government, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, expressed his support for the rules when the board approved them.

This bill could have taken much of the authority in regulating sports betting away from the Lottery Board. It’s uncertain whether that would have been a real difference-maker, however.

What HB 2844 would have done and why

McNally was one of the proponents behind taking another look at the regulatory structure for sports betting in Tennessee. In February, he and others expressed concern that the board overstepped its authority, leading to the drafting of HB 2844 and SB 2216.

The bills would have addressed that issue by shifting much of the authority to the Sports Wagering Advisory Council. Currently, the eight-member council makes recommendations to the board, who then chooses whether or not to adopt those suggestions. The bill wanted to remove the “advisory” from the equation and put the council in charge of making decisions.

While McNally was clear that he was happy with the regulations, he did also state that he believes legislation is still necessary. McNally stated those issues he still saw outstanding were minor, however.

If McNally has the ear of most of his colleagues in that regard, that suggests this particular change isn’t forthcoming in the next legislative session either. Putting the council in charge of regulation and taking those duties from the board would not be a minor tweak.

It might have a minimal effect, however. The council members aren’t any more versed in operating a sportsbook than are the lottery board members.

While some council members advised against flaws in the regulations, like the 90% payout cap, it wasn’t unanimous. It’s fair to speculate that the rules may have looked similar if the council had the final instead of the board.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. 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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