One TN Lawmaker Optimistically Predicts March Madness 2020 Sports Betting Launch

Posted on January 7, 2020 - Last Updated on March 9, 2020

One member of the Tennessee House is mad about March 2020. Rep. Rick Staples has that in his sights for a Tennessee sports betting timeline.

Staples, the main proponent behind the new sports wagering law in the Volunteer State, hopes that legal sportsbooks will be open for business in his state in time for the 2020 NCAA men’s basketball tournament. That may be too optimistic, however.

Important steps in the Tennessee sports betting timeline

The public comment period, during which any and everyone who has any thoughts on the state’s draft sports betting regulations may submit those, ended Monday. Many individuals, even a member of the Tennessee Sports Betting Council itself, have taken advantage of that period.

The council has a lot to consider in addressing those comments. There are perceived flaws in the current regulations, like a backward rule on parlays and an 85% cap on sportsbooks’ annual payout.

It’s hard to tell how long it will take the council to address all the concerns. Until it posts the final regulations, however, nothing else can happen.

Once the council crosses that off the list, it can move on to sending out license applications. Again, it’s uncertain how long it will take the council to process those. After the council awards licenses, operators can start to get ready to roll in Tennessee. They will still have to pass inspection before they can actually start accepting wagers.

In some states, like Iowa, legalization to rollout took about three months. In others, like Illinois, however, the process is pushing a year with no end in sight.

Either way, the middle of March seems overly optimistic right now. The unfortunate thing about that is that sports betting revenue is tied to the calendar.

Why March is so desirable for sports betting in TN

The best times to launch legal sportsbooks are those that coincide with major sporting events. Despite the fact that the Tennessee Titans are still alive for a spot in Super Bowl LIV, that’s way too soon to serve as an effective launch date.

March Madness is the next event on the sports calendar, especially one that has relevance for Tennessee. The Memphis Tigers and University of Tennessee Volunteers men’s teams are both on track for qualification for the tournament.

If the Tennessee sports betting industry misses that event, it will be months before another of similar magnitude comes along. That would be the start of the next football season in the fall.

While there’s no requirement for the state to allow legal books to launch in concert with a major event, it helps entice operators to invest in the market. Tennessee could be an attractive landing spot for sportsbooks if the regulations allow.

Popularity of major sports only helps TN market

Tennessee not only has a franchise in three of the four biggest professional sports leagues in North America but the aforementioned Memphis and Tennessee athletic programs as well. Additionally, the soccer franchise in Nashville will join MLS soon.

The fact that the Volunteer State is so welcoming to online sportsbooks on the surface is appealing as well. That can either be enhanced or harmed by the final regulations.

The council has the task to balance the state’s interests with sportsbooks’ desires in front of it right now. How quickly that happens will go a long way toward determining whether Staples’ hopes for legal wagering in time for March Madness are realized.

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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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