Tennessee Residents Could See Legal Sports Betting In The State As Early As 2019
If you’re interested in sports betting, which I assume you are because you’ve come to a sports betting website, then you probably know a little bit about the recent excitement in the sports wagering world. Of course, I am talking about the Supreme Court’s recent decision to throw out the anti-gambling law, PASPA. When still in effect, PASPA served as a federal restriction against sports betting, keeping the activity strictly confined to the state of Nevada.
With the May decision of SCOTUS, however, the door has been opened for states like Tennessee to offer legal sports betting, if they so choose. At least one legislator is excited about the recent change to federal law. Immediately following the announcement of PASPA’s repeal, Brian Kelsey, a Senator from the Volunteer State released tweets in support of legalizing sports betting in Tennessee.
Kelsey, who serves as chairman for the Senate Judiciary Committee, has already started to put together a plan for proposed legislation that he plans to introduce in the next legislative session, which he released via Twitter the same day SCOTUS announced their decision. Kelsey tweeted, “I plan to introduce legislation to allow sports betting in TN with the tax proceeds to go to K-12 education. It appears this will not require a constitutional amendment, but the legislative attorneys are still researching it.”
Now, looking at Kelsey’s proposed plan to have tax revenue go into funding education gives several indications as to what his bill might include. As of right now, Tennessee does not have legal gambling in the state aside from its lottery. Tennessee’s lottery provides the funding for education and is overseen by a board of directors. If Kelsey intends to run sports betting in the same way as the lottery, then responsibility for enforcing regulations for sportsbooks in the state might fall to this board of directors. Of course, this is purely speculation. Sports betting in Tennessee could be regulated by anyone. I'm just trying to follow the pattern.
Switching the focus from speculation about regulatory officials to legal issues, if what Kelsey says is true, that sports betting in Tennessee is just illegal and not unconstitutional, you could see sportsbooks opening legally in Tennessee before the end of 2019, should everything go according to plan. But if it turns out to be unconstitutional as well as illegal, sports betting Tennessee residents will have to stick it out for the long haul.
This is because there is a lengthy two-step process in making constitutional changes. You might be thinking, only two steps, how could that possibly take a long time? Well, let’s look at the steps. First of all, the proposed change must be approved by a two-thirds majority of state Congress - and everyone knows how the government likes to drag its feet. Then, there must be a vote wherein a majority of the residents of Tennessee vote in favor of a change to the constitution. That’s asking a lot for a state that outlawed bingo. So, let’s hope that the lawyers agree that this is simply a matter of changing the current law, rather than changing the whole state constitution.
For optimism’s sake, let’s say that there only needs to be a change to the law. There are several questions that state lawmakers will have to answer before sports betting in Tennessee becomes a reality.
First of all, how old will you have to be to legally bet on sports in Tennessee? Residents only have to be 18 to play the lottery in the state right now, but most states that have worked on legalized sports betting are setting the gambling age to 21. Will Tennessee follow suit, or will they keep the legal age at 18?
Secondly, as the state does not have any racetracks or casinos to speak of, it will be interesting to see how they implement in-person wagering. Lottery tickets are sold at over 5,000 retail outlets across the state (according to their website), so will sports betting kiosks be popping up at mom & pops across the Volunteer State? Will stand-alone betting shops be opened specifically for the purpose of legal sports betting in Tennessee?
To piggy-back off of the previous question, should the state even have in-person wagering options? In the ever-increasing digital world, will Tennessee instead choose to begin implementing online sports betting for the sake of convenience?
Jumping off of that, online sports betting in Tennessee would definitely get rid of the overhead cost of a physical location but comes with its own set of problems. How would you be able to actually verify the legal age of bettors online? How would you be able to control betting from crossing state lines (which would then violate the Wire Act, a federal law)?
Thirdly, Kelsey says that Tax revenue will go to fund K-12 education. What rate will sports betting revenue be taxed at? Will Tennessee pay the “integrity” fee that the leagues are asking for?
Finally, what will residents be allowed to wager on? Some states are making it so that only professional sports are up for wagers. Others are allowing NCAA events to be bet on, but are excluding lines that involve teams that are based in that state. How will Tennessee, which is home to professional NBA, NFL, and NHL teams as well as several Division I NCAA programs, approach this issue?
As you can see, these and many more questions will have to be answered by the state legislators when and even if this bill comes to the floor. Tennessee’s legislative session will reconvene in spring of 2019, which means that for the time being, Tennessee residents who enjoy sports betting will have to wait and see.
While you’re waiting, though, feel free to continue wagering on all of your favorite teams and sporting events by visiting any of the licensed and reputable online, offshore sportsbooks available to US bettors. Sites like Bovada and BetOnline will continue to provide the best lines and great experiences for Tennessee sports bettors. When it comes time for the legislature to meet again, hopefully, they will give sports betting the open-minded consideration it deserves. Like many states, Tennessee could benefit financially from legalizing sports betting.
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