Tennessee No. 32 On Ranking Of ‘Most Gambling-Addicted States’

WalletHub releases an annual ranking of the states most heavily “addicted” to gambling.

According to this year’s report, the state of Tennessee, which kicked off online/mobile sports betting in November, was No. 32 of 50 on the list, so better than most. In addition to legal and regulated sports betting, the state has a lottery, which serves as the regulator for sports betting firms.

Perplexingly, Tennessee was No. 11 in 2019, so it slid far down the list.

It appears the survey factored in Tennessee not having sports betting for nearly all of 2020, while around 20 states launched their respective sports betting markets between 2019 and 2021. In other words, Tennessee’s sports betting does not appear to be factored into its ranking.

Bettors in Tennessee wagered nearly $700 million through the first four months via legal sportsbooks.

Tennessee has no casinos or racinos, so gambling is relatively limited in the Volunteer State.

In 2021, the state ranked No. 43 in “gambling friendliness” — which is due to the relatively few gambling options. Tennessee was tied with several other states for fewest machines per capita, according to the study. According to the American Gaming Association’s 2020 State of the States report, Tennessee has no legal gambling machines. Some illegal machines are out there, though.

Tennessee’s gambling friendliness in 2019 was No. 22 of 50.

What hurt Tennessee here was the category of addiction rates and treatment options, where it was No. 12, although better than its 2019 ranking of No. 5. In this case, the lower the number the worse in this context. Below is the methodology for this category, with detail data for Tennessee not provided in the news release:

  • Share of adults aged 18 and older with gambling disorders
  • Gambling counselors per capita
  • “Gamblers Anonymous” meetings per capita
  • Presence of National Council on Problem Gaming affiliation
  • Employee training on disordered & problem-gambling laws and regulations
  • Presence of gambling-addiction treatment programs
  • Statewide self-exclusion statute

Gambling expansion still taking shape in state

It is unclear how Tennessee stacked up with those criteria, but it is probably safe to say the state is hurt by a relative lack of problem gambling services, but that does make sense for a state lacking casinos. There is a very lucrative state lottery, however, which creates addiction.

According to an NCPG survey, approximately 70% of adults in the state play the lottery each year.

Tennesseans travel to other states to gamble in casinos, and then some bring back the addiction that weighs on the state. Lawmakers will look at casinos next year.

In an effort to combat the increased rates of addiction to gambling that come with legalizing online sports betting, the 2019 Sports Gaming Act allocated 5% of the state’s tax share for mental health services. As for operators, sportsbooks in the state must allow gamblers to self-exclude, and they must also display a number for bettors to call if they need someone to talk to.

Annual problem gambling funding previously was $200,000 per year, so problem gambling funding directly tied to sports betting will be much more. Through the first four months of wagering, more than $600,000 was generated for addiction services.

The NCPG estimates that 2.2% of Tennessee adults have a gambling addiction.