Tennessee legalized sports betting in 2019, kicking off the activity in late 2020. It was a major milestone for a state without any casinos or racetracks.
The relatively gambling unfriendly state didn’t see any more expansion or revisions to the 2019 Sports Gaming Act last year, due at least in part to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, it looks like lawmakers could have their hands full with gambling bills.
No further expansion of online gambling, to either casinos or poker or an iLottery, is on the table this year, but a slew of bills make would various changes to existing gambling law, most notably the Sports Gaming Act. There is a bill, though, to legalize parimutuel wagering.
There’s also a joint resolution in the House that could bring Las Vegas-style casinos to the state, but so far the plan is just a shell proposal and doesn’t look like it will gain much traction. It’s too early to tell for sure.
Tennessee, like nearly every other state, was given the opportunity to legalize sports betting after the mid-2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down the federal ban in favor of a state’s right to authorize the activity if it wanted to. Tennessee elected to do so the following year, and while the sportsbook industry in the state has been successful so far in terms of the handle, policymakers clearly have amending the law on their minds. They would be tweaks that would be felt more by operators than consumers.
The 2021 legislative session is underway, and it’s slated to adjourn before May.
The bills under consideration
Below is a look at all the gambling-related measures so far filed. None of them have had a vote by lawmakers in Nashville as of Monday afternoon.
HB 48/SB 1056: Redirects the 80 percent portion of the tax revenue from the privilege tax on sports gaming from the lottery for education account to an account created for distribution to public school systems for the construction and maintenance of school buildings.
HJR 93: Proposes an amendment to the state constitution to authorize casino gaming and require that state revenues derived from casino gaming be allocated for K-12 education projects and programs as determined by the general assembly.
HB 133/SB 272: Increases the fines imposed against a licensee for accepting wagers from a minor or other person ineligible to place wagers in this state; increases the fines against a person unlawfully accepting wagers without a license in this state.
HB 1267/SB 588: Requires the lottery’s board of directors and sports wagering advisory council to meet jointly for purposes of adopting rules and taking disciplinary action against a licensee.
HB 706/SB 1322: Requires licensees under the Sports Gaming Act to report to the board of directors of the lottery any information relating to the discharge of an employee for a violation of the Act.
HB 720/SB 664: Authorizes a nonprofit organization to conduct a bingo game as its annual event for purposes of the Tennessee Nonprofit Gaming Law.
HB 824/SB 1029: Prohibits a licensee that offers interactive sports wagering from allowing a person to place a bet or wager at the same location as where the person entered into a flex loan plan, a title pledge agreement, a deferred presentment services agreement, or a check cashing transaction; prohibits certain provisions in documents for such transactions.
SB 994: Requires the secretary of state to conduct a study of each state that has authorized or proposed legislation to authorize sports gaming; requires the secretary to assess the economic impact and regulatory oversight of gaming in each state and report the findings to the governor and each member of the general assembly no later than Jan. 10, 2022.
SB 1301: Reduces from 10 days to five days the period by which a licensed sportsbook must request additional information from a bettor if the information initially provided by the bettor was insufficient to verify the bettor’s identity and financial information.
SB 1159: Enacts the “Horse Racing Control Act of 2021,” authorizing and regulating parimutuel wagering.
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