Tennessee Online Sports Betting
To the surprise of many, legislators were successful in pushing Tennessee online sports betting forward in 2019. The bill is the first sports betting legislation passed in the U.S. that does not include a retail component. All bets will be placed online.
The decisive bill, HB 1, arrived on Gov. Bill Lee’s desk on May 24th, 2019. Despite a personal belief that gambling expansion wasn’t needed, he recognized its importance to other legislators and allowed it to become a law without his signature.
Remarkably Tennessee, not known as a gambling-friendly state, is poised to offer online sports betting sometime in 2020. This page will serve as your all encompassing guide to sports betting in the state of Tennessee.
Pledge Your Support for Tennessee Online Sports Betting!
Are you a Tennessee sports bettor and fan who wants to be able to easily place bets on your smartphone, tablet or computer? Once thought to be a longshot in Tennessee, online sports betting is now legal.
Even though legislation has passed, you can still let your TN reps know that you support their decision on sports betting!
All you need to do to lend your voice to the legalization of Tennessee online sports betting is fill out the form below, which will let lawmakers know that you support them bringing legal online sports betting to Tennessee.
The Basics of Sports Betting in TN
It’s pretty straight forward, you have to be at least 21 years old to wager on sports in Tennessee. No exceptions.
In order to participate in Tennessee online sports betting, well, you have to be located in Tennessee. Bettors using web browsers will be required to install a geo-tracking plugin to prove their location. Phones and other mobile devices are a little easier as they come with built-in GPS chips that can tick this box.
It is worth noting that you don’t have to actually live in Tennessee to bet on sports in the state, you just need to be physically present within its borders.
Tennessee added a few specific restrictions to its sports betting bill. If you fall into any of the following categories, Tennessee online sportsbooks can’t accept your action:
- Tennessee Gaming Commission employees
- Owners, partners, board members, directors, officers, or supervisory employees of vendors/licensees and professional sports teams
- Coaches and players on college or professional sports teams
- Employees of any governing body of a sports team, league, or association
Essentially, anyone that has the ability to potentially affect the outcome of a sporting event is barred from betting. Offenders will be penalized with misdemeanors. Class C, B, and A for first, second, and third offenses.
We’ll know more specifics about the registration process on each online sports betting site after they launch, but the current law requires licensed operators to introduce systems that will allow them to do all of the following:
- Verify the bettors name and age
- Verify that the bettor isn’t on a list of restricted persons
- Obtain personal info including:
- Physical address
- Phone number
- Unique username
- Active Email account
The last 4 digits of your Social Security Number will be required as well, for both taxes and as a confirmation of identity.
You’ll only be allowed to have one account on each licensed sports betting site. In-person registration at kiosks around the state was initially proposed, but thankfully removed from the bill before it became a law.
Deposits & Withdrawals
Deposit and withdrawal methods will vary depending on the operator. Generally speaking, the more variety, the better. The current law specifically references:
- Electronic bank transfer, including those through third parties
- Debit Cards
- Online mobile payment systems that support online money transfers
- Any other method approved by the rule of the board that is initiated with cash.
Most U.S. states with online sports betting rely on the following:
- Online Bank Transfers
- Debit Cards (usually Visa/MasterCard)
Other states also typically allow bettors to deposit, and cash out in person at the casino cage that partners with its online sportsbook. Unfortunately since the Tennessee bill only covers online betting, and there are no casinos in the state to partner with, this won’t be possible. In its absence it is likely sites will provide access to numerous, easy, and safe mobile deposit/withdrawal options.
Tennessee Online Sportsbooks
While Tennessee online sports betting hasn’t officially launched yet, it is getting closer. We should start to see online bookmakers announce plans for the state soon. There is no limit to the number of sports betting operators that can become licensed in Tennessee. Hopefuls are required to pay a non-refundable $50K application fee, submit a collection of documents, and be ready to fork over the annual $750K licensing fee. While it’s still speculation at this point, expect to see many of the following offer mobile sportsbooks in TN:
- William Hill
- FOX Bet
There will surely be surprise entries too. Watch this space for updates once more information becomes available.
Tennessee Land-based Books
There aren’t any, and there won’t be any without further legislation. The Tennessee Gaming Act was the first of its kind, permitting online-only wagers and excluding retail sportsbooks. The lack of brick-and-mortar options aren’t expected to impede the popularity of sports betting though. States like New Jersey, which supports both online and land-based sportsbooks, currently accepts more than 80% of its bets online.
In November 2019 the Tennessee Lottery released a draft of potential rules and regulations for sports betting, and then opened them up to a period of public comment. They listened to feedback until early 2020, and then the Lottery and a nine member advisory board took time to iron out the final details. A number of controversial terms had been proposed, including a disastrous 15% hold which would have served as a serious setback to Tennessee’s sports betting industry. After protest and review, the final terms are better, but, not great.
In April 2020 the state released its official rules and regulations for sports betting.
Tennessee’s sports betting market will open with a 10% hold. While better than 15%, the final 10% number is still far from ideal. The term ‘Hold’ refers to the amount that a sportsbook keeps after paying out a winning bet. In being set at 10%, it would cap the payout for bettors at just 90%.
With the 10% hold, operators in Tennessee won’t be able to offer the most competitive prices. It makes wagering in other states, offshore, or with illegal local bookies more appealing. For comparison, other U.S. markets average around 7.5%, while in Nevada the hold is typically just 5%.
Thankfully, the advisory board indicated that the 10% number could be revisited in a years time. We’ll keep our fingers crossed that it is, and that common sense eventually prevails.
No College Props
Betting on college sports is allowed in Tennessee. However, you can’t bet on individual college props. So you won’t be able to bet on the Vols QB throwing for more than 250 yards, or a Vandy big man grabbing more than 7 rebounds in a basketball game, etc.
Tennessee Online Sports Betting Legislative Landscape
Discussions about legal sports betting in the Volunteer state began in 2018 but really started picking up steam in early 2019.
Here is a brief snapshot of Tennessee’s legislative landscape as it pertains to sports betting:
- PASPA is deemed unconstitutional in May, 2018 by the United States Supreme Court, opening the door for states to begin regulating sports betting.
- In November 2018, Knoxville Democrat State Rep. Rick Staples pre-filed HB0001, calling it the Tennessee Sports Gaming Act.
- On Tuesday, April 9th, 2019, the Tennessee House State Committee voted 12-5 in favor of advancing the Tennessee Sports Gaming Act to the Government Operations Committee for review.
- After it cleared the Government Operations Committee, the bill advanced to the House for a vote. On Wednesday, April 24, Tennessee lawmakers voted 58-37 to approve the sports betting bill, which advanced it to the Senate for consideration. The bill received a 19-12 vote in the Senate.
- On May 24, 2019, Gov. Bill Lee allowed the bill to become law without his signature.
Sports betting has exploded in the United States ever since PASPA, a 30 year old law that essentially outlawed sports betting in all but a few states, was deemed unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court. New Jersey led the way opening its doors to sports betting almost immediately after the May 2018 decision. Since then, many more states including West Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania have all started taking bets.
What’s included in the Tennessee Sports Gaming Act?
- Sports betting is regulated by the state lottery.
- Legalizes online-only sports betting in TN
- It does not include retail sportsbooks
- Sports betting will be taxed at 20%
- Annual license fees will cost $750,000
- Money would go towards the state’s general fund
- 1% will be set aside to help problem gamblers
- Betting is permitted on all professional and collegiate sports
- Online sportsbooks must purchase and use official league data
Tennessee Online Sports Betting Outlook
In a historic move, Tennessee was the first state to pass a “mobile-only” sports betting bill. With no casinos and no real history of gambling in the state, it’s a great first step, but will take some time to implement. Despite being officially legal, bettors are still awaiting the official roll out.
After Tennessee’s sports betting rules were officially finalized in April, online sportsbooks could hit the market as early as July 2020. Stay tuned.
History of Tennessee Sports Betting
There really is not much to say about gambling in the Volunteer State. For most of Tennessee’s history, they have managed to keep legal gambling outside of its borders. There are only three forms of gambling allowed, and compared to other states that already have or are looking into sports betting, these options are relatively tame.
The state lottery was approved by voters in 2002 and lottery games began in 2004. Revenue from the lottery never really took off like the legislators hoped it would, and the states top games rarely exceed $1 million. There are six different draw games to choose from and hundreds of scratch cards that can be purchased from retail shops and kiosks spread throughout the state.
The closest we get to actual gambling in TN is the several horse racing venues throughout the state. The popularity of the race tracks has steadily declined since the early 1990s and revenue has never broken $10 million. The state recently approved interstate simulcast racing and off-track betting.
There are also some charitable gambling options in Tennessee. Charity raffles and raffle-style games are legal as long as the money goes to a state approved charity such as political, religious or civil causes. The laws are very strict and do not allow other forms of games such as bingo, poker or casino nights for charity. Even the raffles are restricted; 50/50 raffles are expressly banned and with any raffle that is held, the funds must go 100% to the charitable organization.
Most states have an exemption for games of skill, but this is not true in Tennessee. They define gambling in the criminal code as:
“Wagering anything of value for profit whose return is to any degree contingent on chance, or on any game of chance associated with casinos, not limited to slot machines, roulette wheels, and the like.”
The law also states that you could be arrested for even owning a known gambling device. A card shuffler could land you a $50 fine for your first offense.
The fact that a gambling-averse state like Tennessee, with a Governor who was opposed to gaming expansion, was able to get a bill across the line shows a need for revenue. The Tennessee Sports Gaming act was a massive breakthrough.
Tennessee Online Sports Betting FAQs
Is sports betting legal in Tennessee?
Effective July 1, 2019, online sports betting is legal in Tennessee.
Where will I be able to place a sports bet in Tennessee when it goes live?
You can bet online with any licensed online sportsbook, from anywhere in the state of Tennessee. None are live yet, but rest assured, they will be arriving soon.
Unfortunately there are no retail sportsbooks.
What sports can I bet on?
All professional and collegiate sports will be present on Tennessee online sports betting slips.
When will sports betting go live in Tennessee?
The state finalized its sports betting rules in April 2020, and a July launch is now a possibility. We’ll update accordingly as more information is made available.
What types of bets will I be able to make?
- Prop bets (excluding NCAA)
(Top Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)