Memphis Pushing for Legal Sports Betting

State of Tennessee flag

Memphis is pushing hard for Tennessee to legalize sports betting going into 2019. This would provide a significant boost to the state revenues and help Memphis prosper.

Memphis is in Shelby County, the largest county in the state. Shelby County commissioners spoke with the state’s General Assembly about altering current laws to allow Memphis’s famous Beale Street to offer legal sports betting at specified locations. This district is world-famous for its entertainment.

Currently, eight states have legalized sports betting. Shelby County will be unique if it gets the green light because it would be the first instance of an individual county to be allowed to offer sports betting while it is banned in the rest of the state.

Tennessee and sports betting

There have been other efforts to have legal sports betting in Tennessee. However, numerous obstacles stand in the way. Tennessee is one of the conservative states that has traditionally had an anti-gambling stance but is now looking to expand its gambling laws.

Mississippi and West Virginia in the region already offer, which is why their neighbors are trying to get their own slice of the action. A draft bill is in the works to be offered at the 2019 legislative sessions.

What does this bill look like?

Rick Staples, a Knox County Democratic Representative, is drafting this bill and it will be presented to the state legislature when the 2019 session opens. Therefore, politicians will have time to consider the bill and decide if it would be a good fit for the state.

The bill would impose a 10% tax on revenues from sports betting. This would be one of the best sports betting tax rates in the country. Some states, such as Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, have very high tax rates. It also calls for mobile gambling, which has been a massive success since becoming legal in New Jersey.

New Jersey is garnering more revenues on mobile sports bets than from physical locations offering sports betting. However, it is always a tough proposition for politicians because it likely leads to higher levels of problem gambling.

Obstacles in the way

Traditionally, Tennessee has been conservative about gambling expansion. The first step for the draft bill will be consideration by a special committee. Committee members will suggest changes that should be made to the bill.

Then the Republican House of Representatives will consider it. If it gets the green light, the Senate, also in control of the Republicans, will consider it. Finally, the governor needs to sign the bill to make it law. Governor Lee is an outspoken critic of gambling, so there are concerns on this front.

Of course, the politicians are working on behalf of the state’s citizens, so if it is seen as being popular with the public, legalization could very well be on the way.

What about legalization in Memphis?

Elected officials in Memphis are very much in favor of legal sports betting. There are no gaming facilities or casinos in the state, which is why many are pessimistic. However, many others believe that adding sports betting could further bolster the appeal of the growing tourism destinations in the city.

As a result of a decision by the attorney general’s office in the state in 2018, gambling is now seen as being a game of skill. Therefore, if legislative action comes through, there is no need for a public ballot to decide on the issue. It will become law if the General Assembly passes it and the governor signs the bill.

Since Memphis is the standout destination in the state, it would come as no surprise to see it gather special favor with this issue.

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