Updated on July 28, 2020
As US sports betting spread across the country in 2019, Tennessee joined the line of falling dominos in May. Buoyed by the efforts of Montana and Indiana, the Volunteer State raised its collective hands and offered itself as the next sports betting hub.
Joining an ever-growing list that includes Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware, Tennessee sportsbooks will now operate under a legal if slightly restrictive framework. As per the terms of Senate Bill 16 (SB16), sports betting will be lawful but there will be some clauses that make the conditions less attractive for operators and consumers.
In the bill approved by the Tennessee Legislator, regulated operators will have to pay a $750,000 licensing fee as well as 20% tax. On top of that, registered sports leagues, including the NFL, MLB and NBA, will be able to request certain amendments.
For consumers, the most notable clause in Tennessee’s sports betting bill relates to in-play wagers. Unlike other US sports betting states, live data will be supplied to vendors from “official” sources. In practice, this means in-play betting won’t be a free market. Although that won’t necessarily lead to worse odds, it does restrict the way live sports bets will be offered in Tennessee.
However, even with these less favorable conditions in place, Tennessee bookmakers now have a chance to thrive. Indeed, with the legislature voting in favor of the change in May 2019, local sports fans will soon be able to speculate on their favorite events in a safe and legal way.
Tennessee Sports Betting Timeline
How did Tennessee become a sports betting state? Well, after numerous debates, SB16 was finally given the green light in May 2019. However, before the state was added to America’s sports betting timeline, it had to jump through a number of important hoops.
The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) is struck down by the Supreme Court in May 2018. This decision opened the door to legal intrastate sports betting.
By June 2018, various states had either legalized or started the process of voting on sports betting regulation. At this time, Tennessee hadn’t joined the discussions.
Seeing the positive changes happening across the US, Tennessee politicians began formulating an effort to regulate sportsbooks within the state. These moves started in the final months of 2018 before SB16 was formally introduced to the Senate in December.
On January 8, 2019, SB16 passed the First Consideration and started its journey through the legislative process.
Between March and April, the bill bounced back-and-forth between Senate subcommittees where it underwent a series of amendments. Eventually, by April 30, it took the place of it’s House Bill counterpart (HB1)and was put to a vote.
At the start of May, the House voted 58-37 in favor of the bill before it passed through the Senate by a margin of 20-12. The bill was then sent to Governor Bill Lee’s desk. Governor Lee long opposed the idea of sports betting in Tennessee but decided not to veto this piece of legislation. With both sides of the chamber approving the bill, sports betting in Tennessee became a reality.
The year began with potential stakeholders and the general public upset with the first draft of rules that the Tennessee Education Lottery (TEL) proposed in January.
The main two rules that everyone opposed was the 85% payout cap and the fact that parlay bets would count ties as losses. The 85% payout cap means bettors would only receive 85% of their winnings if there bet panned out.
In February the TEL went back to the drawing board to try and come up with more concrete rules. After months of discussions, the rules were finalized in April with a 90% payout cap.
The TEL started accepting license applications that same month and finally approved the first four vendors in July 2020. The TEL expects to launch legal sports betting in Tennessee in the very near future.
Where Can I Bet on Sports in Tennessee?
Under the terms of SB16, Tennessee sports betting will be an online-only affair. This means that customers will be able to make single-way and multiway wagers via their desktops and mobile devices.
In-person registration is not required so as long as you are located within state lines and are using a licensed sports betting operator you will be able to put real-money down on a wide range of sporting events.
Tennessee Sports Betting FAQ
What is the legal sports betting age in Tennessee?
To bet on sports at Tennessee’s best sportsbooks, you have to at least 21-years-old.
What is the Tennessee sports betting tax rate?
As local sportsbooks generate revenue like other states, they’ll be subject to a tax rate of 20%. This is more than double the amount operators in states such as Indiana (9.5%) will have to pay.
Can I bet on sports online in Tennessee?
Yes. In fact, all legal Tennessee sportsbooks will be online as there are currently no provisions for land-based betting.
Can I Bet On College Sports In Tennessee?
Yes, but there are certain rules to keep in mind. Live betting on college games as well as prop bets on college players and teams will not be allowed. However, all other bets are on the table including betting on the Tennessee Volunteers.
What is the current status of Tennessee Sports Betting?
The Tennessee Education Lottery has finalized rules, accepted applications, and approved it’s first four vendors. The TEL expects to launch the first online sportsbooks in Tennessee either by late summer of 2020 or early fall.