Tennessee Looking at Sports Betting Legalization for 2019

Map of Tennessee showing important cities

The state of Tennessee appears to be on the brink of assessing the legalization of sports betting in 2019.

It has been an interesting time for sports betting because of the midterm elections taking place across the US. Voters in several states made significant statements about the future of sports betting.

A lawmaker in Tennessee has now introduced sports betting legislation to be considered in the 2019 legislative session. This legislation could open the doors for a significant sports betting operation in the states.

Details of the legislation

Knox County Representative Rick Staples filed this proposed sports betting bill for the next legislative session. Naturally, some hurdles have to be negotiated before it can be passed. However, lawmakers now have plenty of time to consider the first sports betting bill to be introduced since the Supreme Court ended the federal ban on the activity in May 2018.

Many people in the state are excited after seeing the contents of this proposed bill. As part of this proposal, there would a 10% state tax on all gambling revenue.

That proposed tax would be very competitive with the states that are currently offering sports betting. Certain states have tried to wring too much out of sports betting, such as Pennsylvania, which is proposing a 36% tax rate. This will act as a disincentive for sportsbooks to set up shop in the state.

The proposed bill provides for mobile gambling, which could prove to be very successful. In New Jersey, for example, sportsbooks are generating greater revenues from mobile sportsbooks than their land-based options.

It is a lot more convenient for a person to place a sports bet on a whim using a mobile phone rather than traveling all the way to a casino or racetrack. Since Tennessee currently has no casinos, this would be particularly effective as a method of sports betting.

No doubt lawmakers will scrutinize this and other provisions, but it certainly looks as if Tennessee can be a competitive force in the space.

What obstacles are there?

Despite the positive responses so far to this proposed bill, there is no certainty that it will be passed into law.

It will first be referred to a committee that will discuss the issue and make alterations to the 6,000-word piece of legislation. Staples, who is a Democrat, would then seek approval from the House of Representatives, which is controlled by the Republicans. If it passes the house, the state Senate, which is also controlled by Republicans, would have to approve it.

Finally, the incoming governor, Bill Lee, would have to sign it into law. Lee is somewhat anti-gambling, having spoken out against the activity while he was running for office.

Tennessee traditionally has deep cultural roots and a political history of opposing any legislation which would be a positive move for the gambling sector.

For the most part, conservative politicians tend to be more against gambling and these are the people who have been in control for the most part in the state for many years.

While a lot of other states saw swings in the control of their Houses, both houses in Tennessee remained red following the 2018 midterms. However, numerous states have taken a bipartisan approach and pushed through sports betting legislation since the federal ban ended.

How are other states faring?

Tennessee may look at neighboring Mississippi, which has a similar cultural background and has already started offering sports betting. They have seen decent success so far, and many Tennessee residents getting their sports betting fix across the border with Mississippi.

Previously, it was estimated that 10% of the Mississippi casino’s revenues come from Tennessee residents.  They want to get their fix somewhere and they only really have a lottery in their own state.

Other states in the area, such as Arkansas and Louisiana, have also been considering the introduction of sports betting. There is also a bipartisan sports betting bill in play in Kentucky.

Even the state of Virginia, which has long been anti-gambling, has been seriously assessing numerous gambling-expansion-related laws recently. Lawmakers in Tennessee may be concerned that they will be left behind if they fail to be progressive and consider opening up their gambling laws.