In April 2019, the Tennessee Legislature passed a bill legalizing online and mobile sports betting.
On May 25, 2019, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee issued a statement that said he was returning the bill to the legislature without his signature.
Lee claimed he did not believe online sports betting was in the best interest of the state, but wouldn’t stand in its way. This lack of participation allowed the Tennessee sports betting bill to become state law.
As a result, the Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation and its board created rules to govern sports betting in the state. A Sports Wagering Advisory Council was also created to advise lottery officials.
The Tennessee Lottery’s first draft, released in November 2019, was met with harsh criticism. It included a clause that would force operators to post a mandatory 15% hold, more than double the national average, which was widely panned.
Another clause would have sportsbooks consider the case of a “push” in a parlay bet to be a loss received. It also received heavy criticism.
The mandatory-hold clause has been moved to 5% to resemble the actual market standard more closely. Furthermore, the parlay clause was dropped in favor of the industry standard of adjusting the odds to remove the push.
However, by mid-March, the Tennessee Lottery had still not finalized the rules to govern sports betting. Tennessee lawmakers were considering handing that task over to the Sports Wagering Advisory Council instead.
Either way, the hope is to see Tennessee’s first online and mobile sportsbooks launch in time for football season 2020.
When will Tennessee sports betting launch?
Currently there is no known date for the start of sports betting in Tennessee. There were rumblings about a launch in time for Super Bowl 54, but that never materialized.
It seems that sometime in 2020 is a good estimate for sports wagering in TN. Targeting the start of NFL and college football season would make the most sense as football is responsible for the biggest betting handle in legal US betting.
How Tennessee sports betting works
Tennessee sports betting is online and mobile-only.
Tennessee’s new sports betting law prescribes specific rules for sports betting in the state.
- Allows betting on professional and collegiate sports, including motorsports and esports, as well as the Olympics or other athletic events sanctioned by recognized national or international organizations.
- Allows online and mobile-only sports betting with no casinos to host retail sportsbooks in Tennessee.
- Forces operators to enter into commercial agreements with major sports leagues to purchase data for in-play betting.
- Allows major sports leagues to restrict the types of bets available.
- Institutes a ban on collegiate prop bets.
- Operators are charged a $750,000 annual license fee and a 20% tax on revenue.
Additionally, betting is limited to those in Tennessee who are 21 years or older and are not one of the following:
- A member or employee of the commission.
- Principal owner, partner, member of the board of directors, officer or supervisory employee of a licensee, vendor of a licensee or a professional sports team.
- Coach or player of a collegiate or professional sports team.
- Member or employee of any governing body of a sports team, league or association.
- A person who can affect the outcome of a sporting event directly.
- Any other category of people the commission establishes by rule, that if allowed to place a wager, would affect the integrity of sports wagering in Tennessee.
Where will I be able to make legal sports bets in Tennessee?
Yes, you should be able to place a sports bet from wherever you are while inside TN state lines and 21 years or older.
If you have access to the internet, you can sign up with a licensed online and mobile sports betting operator.
There won’t be any retail sportsbooks in the state, so the only way to wager on sports is via online sports betting sites.
Tennessee is not putting a limit on the number of operators it will license. The state could have dozens apply for a TN sports betting license and go live after receiving approval from the Tennessee Lottery.
Several well-known sports betting operators will likely jump into the TN market.
These operators include:
- DraftKings Sportsbook
- FanDuel Sportsbook
- Fox Bet
- theScore Bet
- William Hill
Some Tennessee sports betting data must be official
Tennessee differs from many other sports betting states. Its law gives in to a demand by major sports leagues that sport betting operators use official league data for settling bets.
However, the law only forces operators to enter into commercial agreements with major sports leagues to purchase data for in-play betting. The sports leagues have pushed for provisions like this in every state that has legalized sports betting with little success.
Tennessee’s provision seems like a compromise as it requires operators to only use the data for in-play or in-game wagering.
Taxes, fees for Tennessee sports betting are high. While it’s hardly the 36% tax that Pennsylvania charges on sports betting revenue, Tennessee’s 20% tax on sports betting revenue is on the high side.
The country’s original sports betting state, Nevada, has a much lower tax rate of just 6.75%. In New Jersey, operators pay 8.5% on land-based sports betting revenue, 13% on casino-based online sports betting revenue, and 14.25% on racetrack-based online sports betting revenue. Other states like Mississippi, West Virginia, Arkansas, and New York are currently retail only and average around a 10% tax.
The Tennessee Lottery’s first draft of its rules to govern sports betting released in November 2019 included a clause that would force operators to post a 15% hold.
In reality, that’s more than double the national average and with a 20% tax on that hold, would have represented a huge boost to the tax revenues collected by the state. The idea was met with a lot of negativity from industry insiders and stakeholders. It has since been argued down to a more reasonable 5%, which is much closer to the average annual hold, or revenue percentage of handle, posted by Nevada sportsbooks.
In the meantime, Tennessee is still planning to charge operators a $750,000 annual licensing fee, which represents a barrier to market entry for any small sports betting industry players.
How old do I have to be to place sports bets in Tennessee?
Licensed sports betting operators in Tennessee are required to ensure that you are 21 years or older before accepting your money.
Sportsbooks use an age verification process during registration.
How do I begin sports betting in Tennessee?
Once the Tennessee Lottery finalizes the rules to govern sports betting in the state and hands out the first TN sports betting licenses, the state’s first online and mobile sportsbooks will go live. Once again, it’s worth noting that TN sports betting will be mobile-only and no retail sports betting locations will launch in the state.
Tennessee’s first online and mobile sportsbooks will offer a wide range of sports and bet types.
Before you can start making bets online, you’ll need to set up an account with the operator or operators of your choice. Don’t worry; it’s an easy process that only takes a few minutes. To set up an online account, use any of the links to sportsbook reviews on The Lines.
There is a short online form to fill out with your personal details. Sportsbooks are legally required to acquire this to prevent fraud and avoid any underage gambling.
By law, customers must provide Tennessee operators:
- Phone number
- Active email account
Then, it’s a matter of choosing a screen name and password, and you’re one step away from betting. Now you must fund your sports betting account. Tennessee law allows you to deposit money into an online sports betting account in three ways:
- Electronic bank transfer
- Debit card
- An online payment system that supports transfers
If you set up your account on a mobile device, you’ll want to make sure to download the operator’s betting app. Otherwise, log in to the website with your username and password, browse through the markets and feel free to make your first bet.
How do I withdraw my winnings?
The simple answer is that anything you win, you should be able to withdraw the same way you deposited money.
However, it is operator-dependent. If all else fails, TN sports betting sites will send you a check in the mail.
Easy withdrawals are a significant benefit of legal state-regulated gambling. The government oversight gives you somewhere to go if your money gets lost or temporarily misplaced.
You can rest assured by knowing your money is secure. Your winnings will be handled promptly with licensed, regulated TN sports betting operators.
Can I use my online account outside of Tennessee?
No, Tennessee sports betting laws only apply inside TN state lines. If you cross into another state, you can no longer bet legally with a Tennessee licensed operator.
If you already have an online sports betting account in another state, like New Jersey, you can’t use that account in Tennessee, even with the same operator. You must open a new account in Tennessee.
Under no circumstances can you use an online account that is not licensed in the state where you are present.
Operators use geolocation technology to help ensure you are where you are supposed to be when placing bets.
One step over the state line and the operator won’t accept your wager.
Will the Tennessee sports betting odds be competitive?
If regulators had gone ahead with a rule forcing operators to post a 15% hold on total sports betting handle, it might have been tough for operators to keep the lines competitive. That money was going to have to come from somewhere.
Since it has been walked back to a more reasonable 5% makes it much more likely that TN lines will be competitive with the rest of the country.
If Pennsylvania sportsbooks can be competitive with a 36% tax on sports betting revenue, TN sportsbooks can undoubtedly do so with 20%, even though the $750,000 annual license fee will make it difficult.
In reality, the odds should be no different from those available in Las Vegas.
Odds may vary from one Tennessee operator to another, but that’s just the business of sports betting. It is good for consumers to be able to shop lines to get the best price on a bet.
What sports can I bet on in Tennessee?
The Tennessee sports betting law leaves it up to regulators to determine valid sporting events for betting.
The law does say that betting will be allowed on professional and collegiate sports, including motorsports and esports, as well as the Olympics or other athletic events sanctioned by recognized national or international organizations.
Plus, it bans collegiate prop bets.
Ultimately, that means the list of sports you can bet on in TN should include:
- Auto racing
- Mixed martial arts
- Track and field
What types of sports bets can I make in Tennessee?
As of March, the rules for TN sports betting were still being put together. Outside of a ban on collegiate prop bets, the law doesn’t place specific restrictions on the types of bets allowed or not allowed.
It looks like regulators will be following much of what other sports betting states are doing by allowing the most popular types of single-game wagering, including:
- Moneylines: The most simple wager on a team to win a specific game at odds set by sportsbooks.
- Spreads: This is moneyline betting with a line set by sportsbooks factored into the final score.
- Totals: A bet on the combined score and whether it will be over or under a line set by sportsbooks.
- Futures: A bet on an outcome that has not yet happened. Typical futures bets include bets on the Super Bowl or the NCAA March Madness winner.
- Parlays: This bet combines two or more individual wagers into one. Parlays pay better, but you have to get every game correct to win the bet. Parlays also include round robins, which link several parlay bets together and teasers, which allow you to adjust a line in your favor.
- Props: Proposition wagers are about aspects of the game within the game, not the final score. Props often involve betting on individual statistical milestones and team milestones. College sports props are not allowed in TN.
In-game wagering and live betting
As long as state-regulated sports betting sites get access to real-time sports data from the leagues, TN will allow them to offer bets on games that are already underway.
This type of betting is in-play or in-game wagering. The odds adjust almost instantly according to the live-action.
In-game betting means you don’t have to pick the winner before the game starts; you can wait and see how things are going before placing your bet. Just remember that sportsbooks will be adjusting the odds according to how things are going as well.
In-game props based on individual plays and players should also be available, making online sports betting apps a great companion for game-watching.
In-game betting may also provide you with an opportunity to make up for some otherwise bad pre-game bets.
What companies will offer sports betting?
Several sports betting companies want to get in on the TN market when it opens. FanDuel Sportsbook has already expressed its interest publicly.
It would be no surprise to see this list of US competitors to follow suit:
- DraftKings Sportsbook
- Fox Bet
- theScore Bet
- William Hill
What other forms of internet gambling will be available in Tennessee?
Unfortunately, no other forms of online gambling are available now or at any time in the immediate future.
Tennessee doesn’t have casinos. It doesn’t have horse racing facilities with pari-mutuel wagering either.
While it has a state lottery, Tennessee law requires all lottery tickets to be purchased in person at a participating retailer and only with cash.
Any hope for other forms of online gambling was eliminated when Gov. Bill Lee refused to sign the sports betting bill.
In his statement regarding sending the bill to the General Assembly without his signature. Gov. Lee said he remains philosophically opposed to gambling in TN and is only allowing the bill to become law because it did not pursue casinos, what he calls the “most harmful form of gambling.”
Lee went on to say, “Any future efforts to expand gambling or introduce casinos in Tennessee will assure my veto.”
Where will Tennessee gambling tax revenues go?
Tennessee’s sports betting law calls for a 20% privilege tax on online sports betting revenue.
Lawmakers have decided to distribute this money in the following way:
- 80% to the lottery for the education account
- 15% to each local government in the state on a per capita basis for infrastructure projects
- 5% to the department of mental health and substance abuse services to oversee grant programs for gambling addicts and administrative costs and costs of professional services related to the programs
Lawmakers estimate sports betting will generate $50 million in tax revenue annually, and the industry believes the figure could be even larger.