Tennessee Lawmaker Eyes Bill To Redirect Sports Betting Money

Only two full months of sports betting are in the books so far in Tennessee, but one state lawmaker reportedly plans to introduce legislation that would amend the 2019 Sports Gaming Act.

According to WJHL, state Rep. David Hawk is planning to introduce a bill that would move the bulk of sports betting tax revenue away from higher education initiatives to K-12 education. Currently, 80% of the state’s cut of adjusted sports betting receipts goes to the Tennessee Lottery’s education account. The state’s tax on the sportsbook revenue is 20%.

“I’m going to try to take those dollars, 80% of those dollars, and put them back toward local governments for K-through-12 facility building,” Hawk told WJHL. “It’s something that has not been tried before, so I’m going to try to dedicate those funds. … If there is $25 million that comes into the online gambling through the state of Tennessee, then just split that on a per pupil basis.”

He estimates that $25 million “would mean $25 per student would go back to school districts.”

It’s unclear how much support the proposal would have and whether the Tennessee Education Lottery would have a position on it. It would have no impact on the actual sports betting products that consumers in the Volunteer State are now getting used to.

In November, the state saw more than $130 million in betting handle, a solid first month. December figures should be out in the coming days. Substantial month-over-month growth is expected.

More sports betting meetings planned

The TEL has scheduled three 2021 meetings of its Sports Wagering Advisory Council. The dates are:

  • Feb. 16
  • May 11
  • Aug. 17

The TEL Board of Directors is slated to meet on Jan. 29. It’s expected that the agency will put the finishing touches on getting Churchill Downs and its TwinSpires-branded betting app ready to launch. It would be the fifth unique sports betting app in the state.

Other sportsbooks, such as WynnBET and William Hill, have pending paperwork but don’t appear poised to launch in time for the NFL Super Bowl on Feb. 7.

Other gaming legislation in the pipeline?

While Tennessee was a relatively early adopter of online sports betting when it legalized the activity in 2019 and launched the following year, don’t expect further gambling expansion anytime soon.

Gov. Bill Lee made it clear when letting the 2019 Sports Gaming Act become law without his signature that he was uninterested in seeing additional gaming bills. The state isn’t home to any casinos or racetracks. An online casino bill would be a tough sell in Tennessee.

Indiana, which also legalized sports betting in 2019, has pending online casino legislation on the table.

It’s likely that any new gaming-related bills in Tennessee would involve possible changes to the sports betting industry. One exception could be bringing the Tennessee Lottery online. With sports betting apps now in Tennessee cyberspace, it would make sense for the TEL to be able to sell tickets and offer other games via smartphones and computers as well, but there hasn’t been any chatter publicly about that as far as TN Bets can tell. But again, it’s possible the governor would oppose it.

Other states, such as neighboring Kentucky, have increasingly popular online lottery options.