Tennessee is about to conclude its fourth full month of legal sports betting.
On Tuesday, the Tennessee Education Lottery’s Sports Wagering Advisory Council had its regular meeting at which members discussed the state’s progress.
There was a mix of good and not-so-good news, with the overall message being positive as the TEL looks ahead to the burgeoning industry’s continued evolution, including the eventual launch of additional sportsbooks.
Topics discussed included:
- January handle, revenue, and tax totals
- Super Bowl wagering action at the four TN sportsbooks
- Closure of accounts at two sportsbooks for suspicious betting activity
- Possible expansion of betting options, including adding sports betting pools
- A yet-to-be approved applicant’s proposal to offer peer-to-peer betting
Solid January followed by a big Super Bowl for sportsbooks
Starting with some good news, Tennessee sportsbooks followed a strong December with an even bigger January.
While the official monthly report has yet to be shared, TEL CEO Rebecca Hargrove announced rounded off January totals at the meeting as follows:
- Gross Wagers: $211 million
- Gross Payouts: $190 million
- Privilege Tax: $4.3 million
According to Hargrove, that translated to about $21.8 million in revenue between the four sportsbooks:
Collectively, that appears to put the operators at just a touch above the 10% hold requirement they must each take for the year to avoid a fine.
That means TN bettors have wagered more than half a million dollars on sports during the first three months.
Meanwhile, the Super Bowl helped February get off to a strong start for the sportsbook.
Unofficial numbers show that bettors wagered more than $15 million on the big game at the four sites, with more than $12 million paid out.
74 Tennessee sports betting accounts closed
As for less positive news, members discussed last week’s report that 74 player accounts were closed on two TN sportsbooks due to “significant anomalies” in Super Bowl betting activity. An investigation into the suspicious activity is ongoing.
Council members did not clarify which two sportsbooks closed accounts. However, the discussion revealed some additional details.
According to sports gaming investigator Danny DiRienzo, accounts were closed because of betting rules violations, including multiple accounts being used by a single bettor.
Some of the suspicious Super Bowl bets were able to be canceled before the game.
We will find out more information as the investigation progresses.
Sports betting pools considered ahead of March Madness
With the NCAA men’s basketball tournament starting on Mar. 18, the Council took up the topic of sportsbooks offering sports betting pools.
Doing so would allow the sites to offer March Madness brackets, survival pools, and popular pick’em games.
Tennessee law allows such betting pools. Members spoke favorably of authorizing them to enable the sportsbooks and the state to take advantage of pools’ popularity.
The Council feared that Tennessee would miss out on a substantial amount of wagering activity if these popular pools were not live in time for the tournament.
Members uncertain about ZenSports’ peer-to-peer platform
Thus far, the TEL has approved three additional operator licenses for BetAmerica, William Hill, and WynnBET. It is still unclear when these operators will launch.
Another applicant, ZenSports, has proposed offering a so-called “peer-to-peer” betting model that would enable players to create their own bets, as well as to set their own odds and conditions for wagers.
No states with legal sports betting have allowed such a model. Generally speaking, the idea of introducing peer-to-peer betting in Tennessee did not excite Council members.
“We are not in favor of it, but we are more than willing to put some more time into analyzing it,” said Hargrove.
Council Chairman Billy Orgel echoed that willingness to study the model. “This could be another opportunity for Tennessee to lead the nation in sports betting”, said Orgel.
The meeting concluded with a discussion of whether or not to allow bettors to fund accounts with gift cards, a topic that will be settled at the next meeting.