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Tennessee Sports Betting

Tennessee residents, get those mobile devices ready. Sports betting is about to become available across the Volunteer State. Soon sports fans will be able to use their smartphones to place wagers on their favorite sports from anywhere across the state.

When is sports betting starting in Tennessee?

According to the latest news, sports betting will launch in Tennessee by November 2020 or even before.

Sports betting officially became legal in Tennessee on July 1, 2019. Rules and regulations have at last been finalized, and the first operators have now applied for licenses to operate their sportsbooks in the state. The Tennessee Education Lottery oversees sports betting. Once the TEL approves the applications and awards licenses, sports betting will finally begin.

How to download a Tennessee sports betting app

Unlike other states, Tennessee has legalized online sportsbooks only. Without any casinos in the state, there will be no “brick-and-mortar” retail sportsbooks in TN unless further legislation were to pass.

Although sports betting is not underway in the Volunteer State yet, we can walk you through the likely steps for downloading a sports betting app to your mobile device. As we’ve seen in other states, the process remains virtually identical, no matter where you are, and is comfortingly simple.

The first step will be to find the sportsbook you want to try. Look for an offer that appeals to you, and take note of any promotional code that might apply to your chosen sportsbook. Then, click the “Play Now” button to visit the site.

Once there, you will need to find the logo for your style of mobile device. Almost every sportsbook will have options for both Apple and Android users.

iPhone and iPad users who press the button will be whisked to the app’s download page. Click the word “Get” to begin the download, and the download and installation should proceed like any other native app.

Android users will need to set their phones to allow for downloads from unknown sources before visiting the download page. Google does not allow gambling apps in the Google Play Store, so you will have to download the .apk file directly to your device.

The download may cause your phone to ask for a confirmation and/or override. Since you know that the download’s source is safe, click “OK” to proceed.

From that point, the download and installation should progress as they normally do.

Once you’ve downloaded your respective app, proceed to the registration page. There should be a button in the top right hand corner of the app’s display to that effect.

Make sure that you practice proper web security for your username and password. Since the sportsbook will have your credit card or banking information, you need to take care with your login data.

How is any of this possible?

The Volunteer State has long been hostile to the notion of bringing new ways to risk money into its state lines. So for some the passage of sports betting legislation came as a surprise.

However, after a contentious process through the Tennessee Legislature in early 2019, the heavily-amended SB 16 headed to the governor’s desk for his approval or veto. After Gov. Bill Lee declined to act either way, sports betting became the law of the land in Tennessee.

What is in the law?

As noted, Tennessee’s approach to sports betting is unique among states which have legalized the practice. Since there are no casinos or other viable locations in the state, legislators have taken the unusual step of only authorizing online sports betting.

To date, no other state that has legalized sports betting has neglected to create a retail component. However, given the success that online sports betting has found in places like New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Tennessee may not end up missing the revenue from in-person betting.

Even before the coronavirus altered so many aspects of day-to-day life, many people were already living an increasing portion of their lives online. Therefore Tennessee’s timing and decision to stick only with online sports betting may end up being quite prescient.

Like many states, Tennessee has chosen to build out from its existing infrastructure to regulate sports betting in the state. So, the newly-created Sports Betting Board of the Tennessee Education Lottery will maintain jurisdiction over sports betting in the Volunteer State. The law has therefore given over a great new swath of power and revenue to its lottery commission.

Who is allowed to operate?

One of the more interesting parts of the law is the fact that it has set the stage for a completely wide-open market. There are no limitations on who can apply, so long as the operators get approved by the gaming board.

Of course, gaining that approval will not be easy. Only qualified applicants will have a shot of becoming Tennessee’s sports betting providers.

One of the more curious provisions of the law is that all applicants will need to be members of the Global Lottery Monitoring System. This Switzerland-based organization seeks to detect suspicious wagering, which is a good thing. However, the requirement is likely a function of the fact that it is associated (indirectly) with the CEO of the Tennessee Education Lottery.

Applicants will also need to be without question for any kind of fraud or tax infractions. Truth be told, though, the field is fairly wide open for any interested company to apply, and Tennessee’s population will likely provide plenty of incentive for operators to throw their hats in the ring.

Those who are approved will have to pay $750,000 for their license. While that figure is not unduly high, it represents an amount ten times what the law’s original sponsors had in mind. The annual renewal fee thereafter is $50,000.

The mandated tax rate on the bill has also increased dramatically since its first mention. The final bill’s 20% demand on gross receipts is double what the initial proposition asked.

Lots to make the leagues happy

Of course, some of the provisions above are a bit cumbersome, but ultimately, no operator will likely hesitate about applying because of them. Unfortunately, the new law also features some more troubling flaws. Notably, the wrangling and lobbying that took place in early 2019 have helped to create one of the most league-friendly sports betting laws of any state.

In fact, thanks to a Senate amendment to the bill, leagues have an unprecedented amount of veto power when it comes to allowing wagers upon their products. As stated in the bill, a league may request (in writing) that the gaming board prohibit types of wagering or types of bettors from betting if the league “believes that such wagering by type, form, or category is contrary to public policy, unfair to consumers, or affects the integrity of a particular sport or the sports betting industry.”

In other words, the leagues get the final say on who and what kind of betting will occur. Needless to say, this provision grants a tremendous amount of power to the sports leagues and creates the potential for moral hazard and quid pro quo between leagues and operators.

The bill also restricts operators to using official league data for in-play betting. Though not a unique provision, it similarly creates a situation where corruption and graft could quickly seep into things.

Hold requirement

Another curious portion of the law is a 10% hold requirement placed on every operator. In other words, no operator in Tennessee would be able to pay out more than 90% of the total wagers it accepted.

Now, on its face, this provision seems like a win for the potential sportsbooks in the state. After all, it guarantees that they will enjoy a gross profit margin of at least 10%.

However, no state with sports betting has been able to hold such a high percentage on a consistent basis. Nevada, which is the most mature sports betting market in the country, typically holds between 5% and 6% each month.

One silver lining is that TN regulators ultimately backed off of requiring an even higher 15% hold requirement.

Thus this kind of mandate could end up having the opposite effect from what is desired. Not only will sports bettors seek greener pastures, but it leaves the door open for black market sites to operate in Tennessee.

These kinds of requirements have also proven to be a classic example of “penny wise, pound foolish” lawmaking. As noted in a report by gambling analysts Eilers and Krejcik, other governments that have mandated a hold requirement have ended up underperforming their peers.

The bottom line is that distorting the market like this usually ends up shrinking the total pie. A smaller percentage of a much larger market could very easily end up being worth more to prospective operators in Tennessee.

Other provisions

The law allows betting on professional and collegiate sports, including betting on college teams from TN. 

No individual prop bets on college athletes are permitted, nor are bets on player injuries.

Likely operators

Some of these provisions might make it seem as though operators could decide to avoid the Volunteer State. Even though anyone can apply, the red tape and restrictions associated with the bill could understandably make operators gun shy.

However, the fact is that most operators are willing to jump over several hurdles if it means the debut of a new market. Tennessee’s population and lack of viable alternatives for gambling mean that there could be a large and passionate focus from the public on any sportsbook provider who launches there.

There is no limit to how many or which operators can apply for licensure in Tennessee. Here are some of the companies that have already received conditional licenses to operate sportsbooks in Tennessee:

  • DraftKings
  • FanDuel
  • BetMGM
  • Action 24/7

Both in-state operators, as well as global brands, have received licenses to operate sports betting beginning Nov. 1, 2020. Three more operators have applied for conditional licenses as well, although their names have not yet been released.

Nevertheless, Tennesseans can rest assured that they will have no shortage of options in the state before long.

Tennessee Sports Betting FAQ

Is sports betting legal in Tennessee?

Yes! By virtue of the passage of SB 16, sports betting is now legal in Tennessee.

Who can play?

Anyone over the age of 21 and physically inside the state of Tennessee can bet on sports.

Where can I bet on sports in Tennessee?

Nowhere just yet. There are no active sports betting apps in Tennessee at the moment, although the first may launch by November 2020 or even before.

Where are retail sportsbooks going to be?

There will not be any retail sportsbooks in Tennessee. The new law only legalized sports betting through online services.

What online sportsbooks are there in Tennessee?

It’s hard to say who will eventually launch in Tennessee.  There is no cap on the number or type of operators that can offer services. However, some of the big boys, like DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM have already received their conditional licenses to operate sports betting. Local brands are getting in on the action, too. Locally owned Action 24/7 is the fourth operator to receive a conditional license from the TEL.

Three more operators have applied for conditional licenses as well, although their names have not yet been released.

When will sports betting launch?

In August 2020, the Tennessee Education Lottery announced the first operators will launch by Nov. 1, 2020.

Do I have to wait? What are these sites that are already active when I Google?

Sports betting sites that you can see in Tennessee right now are offshore sites. We strongly encourage you not to use them, due to two main factors:

  • These organizations are not subject to Tennessee or US law, and could leave you without much in the way of remedy if you had any sort of dispute.
  • You could very well be breaking the law. Using an offshore gambling site is a gray area of the law, at best. Some law enforcement officials could very well decide to treat it as patently illegal at any time.

Do I have to have a smartphone or mobile device to wager?

It’s hard to know for sure, due to the fact that sports betting is not already underway in Tennessee. However, the most likely answer is that it is not necessary to have a smartphone to wager. You will probably be able to use your laptop or desktop as well.

Will I have to be inside Tennessee to play?

Yes. Both federal and state law mandate that bets do not cross state lines over the phone.

Can I play from Tunica?

No. Tunica has a plethora of gambling options, is only a few miles from Tennessee, and has retail sports betting in some places. However you will not be able to place wagers on Tennessee online sportsbooks from there.

Do I have to be a Tennessee resident to play?

No. You need only be physically inside the state and of age to bet on sports in Tennessee.

Can I play online casino games or poker with these apps?

No. Online gambling beyond sports betting remains illegal in Tennessee, and none of the sports betting apps will offer any kind of integrated experience.

However, a successful launch and river of new revenue could change some hearts in the Tennessee legislature. Therefore we’ll just have to see if the wind is blowing a different direction in a year or two.