New Tennessee Sports Betting Regulator Feels Prepared To Take Over

The Sports Wagering Advisory Council takes over for the Tennessee Education Lottery as the state’s sports betting regulator on Jan. 1. Does the SWAC expect to be ready to replace TEL when the calendar turns to 2022?

“Absolutely,” SWAC Executive Director Mary Beth Thomas told TN Bets via email. 

Thomas, who assumed her role on Nov. 1, spends much of her time working with the lottery staff. She feels confident the SWAC will take over regulatory duties without much of a hiccup, even if that means a busy next month. 

Timing’s key for license approvals, renewals

There are a few noteworthy logistical challenges in taking over for the lottery. At the top of that list is timing issues when it comes to licensing approvals and renewals. 

“The most challenging aspect is the fact that there are operators who are midway through the licensing application or renewal process,” Thomas said.  

That timing creates a potential problem, as the SWAC is working on creating a new set of sports betting rules and regulations. While the rules will likely be similar to what the lottery has in place, a few differences could alter the application or renewal process for operators. 

She said that the draft emergency rules will account for the unique timing issues that come with switching regulators. 

“We have included provisions in our draft rules to address the situation where an operator has applied under the TEL rules, but will be approved at a time that the SWAC rules are in place,” Thomas said. “We are working with operators to make sure that they understand the process – they all seem to be proactively thinking about what both the TEL and the SWAC need – and we plan to work with them to make sure we are all on the same page.”

Thomas says adding staff members has helped with the process of taking over regulatory duties, and she expects more employees to come on board by the end of the year. Keith Boring, the chief of staff, started Monday. Thomas called him “unbelievably helpful.” 

Stephanie Maxwell, the group’s general counsel, starts Nov. 29. Roger Guillemette, the deputy director of gaming, licensure, and compliance, starts in early December.

“One of our priorities is to move at the speed of business so that we do not slow down this booming industry,” Thomas said. 

Rulemaking meeting set for Friday

The rulemaking committee plans to meet Friday afternoon to discuss the SWAC’s emergency draft rules. Thomas anticipates the rulemaking committee will vote on recommended rules Friday and then take those to a full SWAC meeting for approval. 

Operators will certainly be interested to see what happens with the state’s controversial 10% hold. That rule received significant feedback during a public comment period, as many asked to eliminate it. BetMGM, Caesars, DraftKings, and FanDuel were among the operators who spoke out against the rule. 

The SWAC’s next meeting date isn’t scheduled, although the group will likely meet in early December. At that time the council will likely aim to approve the emergency rules. 

“We expect to have emergency rules in place by the end of the year, as we hoped,” Thomas said.

The emergency rules go in effect for 180 days, giving the council additional time to draft permanent rules. 

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