New Tennessee Sports Betting Regulator Has First Meeting Since Governor-Approved Takeover

  • Gov. Bill Lee transferred regulatory power from the TEL to SWAC by signing SB 588 on Thursday
  • The body won't officially take over until January 1, but has completed its first regulatory meeting 
  • Former regulator TEL recently fought a court battle with Action 24/7 over its license suspension
  • Tennessee sports betting has grown rapidly since 2020, with all-time handle reaching $1.08bn
Tennessee map
In preparation to take the reigns as Tennessee’s sports betting regulator on January 1, 2022, the Sports Wagering Advisory Council held its first official meeting on Tuesday. [Image:]

Getting ready for next year

Tennessee’s lucrative sports betting market has generated upwards of $1bn in handle since its launch in November last year. Now that market is set to have a new regulator by the name of the Sports Wagering Advisory Council (SWAC).

the Council met for the first time since the bill signing on Tuesday this week

By signing SB 588 last Thursday, Governor Bill Lee transferred regulatory powers from the Tennessee Education Lottery (TEL) to SWAC. The switch won’t officially take place until January 1, 2022, but the council met for the first time on Tuesday.

During that meeting, SWAC members met with the TEL to begin the process of appointing a new executive director to lead the council. It also represented the first gaming regulatory meeting held in-person since the beginning of the pandemic in Tennessee.

The council aims to have a director in place before the January 1 deadline and member Tom Lee said the regulator wants someone “significantly experienced” to take the role.

Reasons for the swap

Tennessee’s lottery had oversight of the sports betting industry since the launch of the mobile-only market in 2020. It has experienced a number of difficulties, though, centering around operator Action 24/7.

The TEL announced the suspension of Action 24/7’s operating license in March after an investigation uncovered alleged instances of money laundering and credit card fraud. The operator, in turn, filed a lawsuit against the regulator in an attempt to regain its license. Action 24/7 won its case and has since been cleared of any follow-up legal action from the TEL.

While the TEL fought this court battle, SB 588 and its companion bill HB 1267, both seeking to replace the TEL with SWAC, progressed through the legislature.

Commenting during a hearing on HB 1267 in May, Rep. John Gillespie explained why he backed the regulatory overhaul, saying: “I believe that the lottery and sports wagering are two different areas. I believe that it’s best that they focus on their respective topics.”

Tennessee sports bettting on the up

It’s clear to see why lawmakers want the best regulator possible for the market. Tennessee sports betting has grown rapidly since its launch, generating total handle of $1.08bn and revenue of $92.4m. It took in $131m in its first month of sports betting – still the highest total of any state’s debut month.

March represented the state’s highest monthly handle total to date, with mobile sportsbooks generating a combined $205.9m. April’s total, meanwhile, took a slight dip month-on-month, to $172.4m.

The state’s bettors spend an average of $113.31 per month

According to VegasSlotsOnline News research completed last month, Tennessee places fifth in average monthly spend per bettor out of the active sports betting markets in the US. The state’s bettors spend an average of $113.31 per month, putting Tennessee behind only Nevada, New Jersey, Colorado, and Virginia.

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