It would be fair to say that Tina Hodges does not consider herself a sports betting aficionado. But she does consider herself an expert on Tennessee and digital analytics. And her expertise on those two subjects make her confident that her latest venture, Tennessee Action 24/7, will be a success.
“Most people might not think of consumer lending as a digital analytics company,” Hodges, the CEO and Co-Founder of Tennessee Action 24/7, told TNBets.com. “But that’s what it has become. It’s about customer acquisition, risk analytics … so gaming online is very, very similar. The overlap is very, very strong. For me, it just seemed like a really natural overlap from the two types of businesses.”
On Monday, Hodges’ sports betting platform got conditional approval from the Tennessee Education Lottery Board of Directors to offer sports betting. BetMGM, DraftKings, and FanDuel have already received conditional approval and three additional unnamed companies are also in the application process. The TEL is planning to launch as many operators who are ready on or before Nov. 1. Whether or not Tennessee Action 24/7 will be able to go live on Nov. 1 is still an open question — one its key suppliers, U.K.-based Amelco, has not yet been licensed. If it does get licensed ahead of Nov. 1, Tennessee Action 24/7 will likely be part of a group launch, and if not, the expectation would be it would launch as soon as Amelco is licensed.
Tennessee lawmakers legalized sports betting in mid-2019, and it became law on July 1, 2019 after Gov. Bill Lee allowed it to become so without his signature. The road from legal to launch has been challenging and filled with the kinds of bumps you might expect in a state that doesn’t have an existing casino-style gaming infrastructure.
‘It’s going to be a really different kind of business’
As an experienced business person, Hodges, who grew up in Nashville, says her “high” comes from running companies that flourish and become part of their communities. Part of how she does that is to surround herself with knowledgeable people and let them do their thing. To that end, she’ll continue to work with colleague Andrew Jacks, whose focus is customer acquisition, and has hired Amelco to provide the company’s sports betting platform, as well as Sportradar to handle risk management. The TEL licensed Sportradar on Monday. Jacks is the General Manager of Operations for Tennessee Action 24/7.
Action 24/7 Set to Debut in Tennessee https://t.co/QO4GLgeH1D
— Tennessee Star (@TheTNStar) September 2, 2020
“The excitement for me is running a successful business,” Hodges said. “We’ve had such a wonderful opportunity to build a business here, to get out across the state and really get involved in our Tennessee community. All of our employees are going to be in Tennessee, and I just think it’s going to be a really different kind of business.”
There will be nothing easy about competing against national brands like BetMGM, DraftKings, and FanDuel, among others. And every Tennessee operator could be hindered by the 90% payout cap imposed by the TEL. However, when putting the payout cap into the regulations, the TEL was clear that it was designed to help smaller companies like Tennessee Action 24/7 against larger competitors.
For Hodges and Jacks, local knowledge is what they think will set their platform apart.
“Tina is an exceptional leader,” Jacks said. “She has a great vision when it comes to how a company should be set up, the high-level goals that are needed to make it work. She is very dedicated to giving back to the community.”
Tennessee Action 24/7 has already had some viewing events at bars and restaurants around Tennessee, and the site is active for free-to-play games. Patrons can also sign up for updates on the status of the gambling site.
Both Hodges and Jacks say they will take a grassroots approach to getting the word out not just about Tennessee Action 24/7, but also about the fact that by betting with their company, consumers will be, in effect, “buying local.”
Tennessee Action 24/7 planning ‘localized themes’
“I do think that some people have a loyalty to patronize local companies,” said Hodges. “But I think that we have a huge network — 50 something investors from Tennessee and all of their friends, family, and employees. And I’ve had 20 years of (professional) experience here. … We have so many people who are willing to get the word out. And once we get started, we’ll have more localized themes.”
Said Jacks: “I think when people get to know us, they’ll know how we’ll take care of people. The basic thing for us is just making sure that people understand that we are genuine, we are not going to pander. We know who the people are in the state of Tennessee, so we are going to come up with things that appeal to them.”
Thanks to everyone who hung out with us during the NFL games this weekend.
— Action 247 (@TNAction247) September 15, 2020
Prior to launch, it’s not clear what kinds of special, local promotions Tennessee Action 24/7 will offer, but Jacks promised that the company will be better able to make local and regional special offers than a national company would and that the goal for the sportsbook is to be a clutter-free, easy to use site. In addition, as a customer acquisition professional, Jacks is keyed into being able to offer a seamless experience, even if a customer has concerns or complaints.
“From a competing with the big-folks idea, Tennesseans are fiercely dedicated to the state we live in and we will really be able to focus on the Tennessee bettor,” he said. “And when it comes to customer service, you’re going to be calling a call center or group of people who will be in Tennessee. You’ll be able to talk to someone who is not just in the country, but in the state.
“We’ll have a call center in Nashville, and people can call in for any reason. They can call with questions or just to talk or to tell us they like our logo; we’d be OK with that.”
Hodges said the company will run “live local events,” including tailgates, when COVID-19 restrictions end. They’ll also plan to get out in communities across Tennessee to volunteer for things that may have nothing to do with sports betting. In terms of special offerings on the site, Hodges says bettors can look forward to parlays that could either focus on a particular region (think Titans-Vanderbilt football or Memphis basketball-Grizzlies) or the state as a whole (maybe Titans-Tennessee-Vanderbilt football) with the goal being to stay local.
“We’re not adding another state to our portfolio,” Hodges said. “This is our state. All of our employees live here, 90% of our investors live here, everyone every step of the way has wanted to help out.”