Regulator: Tennessee Sports Betting To Begin No Later Than Nov. 1

The Tennessee Education Lottery said Tuesday that its online/mobile sports wagering market will launch this fall.

TEL CEO Rebecca Hargrove said during a meeting of the Sports Wagering Advisory Council that sports gaming operators licensed in Tennessee should be able to go live by Nov. 1, 2020. Regulators were expecting to launch in September, but that timeline didn’t hold.

It wasn’t the first unofficial delay for the Volunteer State’s sports betting launch, but this appears to be the last of the delays. That’s welcomed news for the state’s sports betting community.

The lottery indicated Tuesday that four firms have completed applications for serving as sports gaming operators. Regulators didn’t say which sports betting companies are seeking entry into the market. A license will cost $750,000 annually.

Licensing could take up to 90 days, but the TEL indicated that it will accelerate that timeline.

The sports world is still in flux due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as some concerns remain about the upcoming NFL season. The Tennessee Titans are expected to be a major source of betting revenue for the industry. It appears Tennessee will see the launch of online/mobile sports betting regardless of what happens with the NFL.

In addition to the firms seeking a sports gaming operator license, the lottery said that it has received applications from more than 20 suppliers and vendors for involvement in the sports wagering market.

Long road to November

Tennessee first started to consider sports betting legislation in the fall of 2018, just months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the federal prohibition. By mid-2019 the state had passed legislation to be one of the early adopters, despite reluctance from Gov. Bill Lee.

Without any casinos or racetracks within its borders, the state went with only online/mobile sports betting, under the regulation of the lottery.

Work on the rules and regulations began in the fall of 2019, with an early launch target date by this past NFL Super Bowl. However, that didn’t come to fruition and the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March, nearly shutting down the global sports world.

Finalizing regulations was tricky for the lottery, as the state went with an annual aggregate fixed payout cap of 90%, the first of its kind in the U.S. Operators must retain 10% of their handle in the form of winnings. Regulators discussed Tuesday how they can enforce that rule.

Hargrove mentioned a $25,000 fine on Tuesday, but it’s unclear what will ultimately be decided upon, as other regulators suggested the fine might be too low for a violation of the fixed payout cap.

The TEL will hold its board of directors meeting on Wednesday.