Fifth Bookmaker Seeks Entry Into Tennessee Sports Wagering Market

The Tennessee sports betting market is expected to begin next month, potentially with four online/mobile sportsbooks launching on the same day. TN Bets has learned that a fifth company has applied to be a sports gaming operator in the state.

BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel, and Tennessee Action 24/7 have all completed applications and are currently being vetted for potential licensure in the coming weeks. The fifth sports betting company hasn’t been made public, as its application isn’t yet complete.

It’s unlikely the fifth company would begin sports wagering on or before Nov. 1 along with the others, but it could be ready for a late 2020 or early 2021 launch. A pre-Super Bowl launch seems likely.

The state, which has relatively high costs of entry (a 20% tax rate and a $750,000 annual fee for sports gaming operators), has so far not seen a flood of interested firms, but more regulated bookmakers are expected to complete applications in the months ahead.

Tennessee, home to no retail casinos or racinos, has the advantage of being online/mobile only, meaning that sports gaming operators don’t have to partner with an existing brick-and-mortar facility in order to offer betting statewide via the internet. Tennessee was a pioneer in this regard.

Upcoming meeting

Later this month, the Tennessee Education Lottery’s sports wagering panel will meet to further discuss the upcoming launch and likely other odds and ends. A “special meeting” of the Sports Wagering Committee will be held on Sept. 23 at 2 p.m. local time, according to the TEL’s website.

It is possible the fifth applicant will be made public at the meeting. It probably won’t be the last public meeting before launch day, but an October meeting hasn’t yet been scheduled.

The Sports Wagering Committee shouldn’t be confused with the Sports Wagering Advisory Council, a group formed through the Sports Gaming Act. The Sports Wagering Advisory Council has a public meeting set for Nov. 16, about two or three weeks after the industry is expected to begin.

Right now it appears to be smooth sailing for the upcoming debut of the online/mobile sportsbooks, legalized under the new law that became effective in mid-2019. Tennessee has been one of the slowest states so far between legalization and launch. The regulations took time to craft.

Still, without a casino-style gambling industry, Tennessee surprised many by legalizing online/mobile sports betting about a year after the famous U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned the decades-old federal prohibition. Tennessee didn’t legalize online casino gambling along with sports betting, like Michigan and Pennsylvania did, for example. There have been no rumblings of a Tennessee iCasino bill.