Traditionally a state with a prohibitive attitude toward gambling, Tennessee turned heads in 2019 by becoming the first (and still only) state to legalize online-only sports betting.
Because it has no racetracks or brick-and-mortar casinos, the Volunteer State lacks obvious venues for retail sports betting. That is presumably why the legislature chose to bypass that option entirely and go straight to online betting.
Despite its (mostly) progressive sports betting law, Tennessee does not yet have many other options for gambling. There is a lottery as of 2003 and lawmakers passed a daily fantasy sports bill in 2016, but residents currently have to travel out of state for other forms of legal gambling.
Sports betting is one of the only two forms of online gambling expressly authorized in Tennessee, the other being daily fantasy sports. However, although sports betting is has been legalized, it hasn’t yet gone live.
Lawmakers passed H 1 in 2019, making their state the first without land-based casinos to legalize sports betting. It is still the sole online-only sports betting market in the country. That should not be much of a hindrance to the industry. Elsewhere in the country, bettors have shown a strong preference for online betting. In states with both online and retail options, it’s often the case that 80% to 90% of all betting is done online.
Conversely, neighbors Mississippi and Arkansas have gone the opposite route. They have retail-only sports betting, with no online option. Once it launches, Tennessee should serve as an example of how online betting is safe for consumers and a reliable source of tax revenue for the state.
Visit this TN online sports betting page for more details.
Online sports betting in Tennessee is under the jurisdiction of the Tennessee Education Lottery. Its Sports Wagering Advisory Council has not yet established firm rules nor committed to a timeline to launch.
They initially said that they hoped to have rules published by April or May. That would likely have allowed the first sites to launch before the beginning of the NFL and college football seasons in August. Year-round, these are the biggest money-makers for sports betting companies.
Because there will be no retail sports betting, Tennessee online sportsbooks will operate independently. Unlike other states with online sports betting, there will be no requirement for them to have a land-based partner.
Although no sites are yet live, it’s easy enough to predict who the major players will be. Some may take longer to launch than others, but eventually you can expect to see most or all of the following operators offering online sports betting in Tennessee:
Other likely, but less certain possibilities are:
Once online sports betting goes live in Tennessee, it will be safe and easy to use.
First, you’ll need to decide on the company you want to bet with and either download their app to your mobile device or visit their website on your computer. You’ll be asked to provide some personal information on sign-up, and to submit documents to confirm your identity.
Some sites might offer free bets just for signing up. Otherwise, you’ll need to make a deposit. Fortunately, you’ll have many options to do so, such as:
Once you’ve completed those steps, you’ll be good to go.
All the most common and popular sports will be available for betting in Tennessee. Unlike some states, there are no restrictions relating to college sports, including betting on teams from Tennessee colleges and on games played in-state.
Around the country, the most popular leagues for betting are:
However, plenty of other options will exist, including various kinds of racing, international sports, minor leagues, foreign leagues, and less popular sports like darts and table tennis.
In some other states, betting on eSports is possible, and betting on chess is being discussed. Whether these become available in Tennessee is to be determined.
Tennessee sports betting will include all the same options available elsewhere. A partial list of the options you can expect includes:
You’ll also be able to combine bets as parlays (aka accumulators) and round-robins. Depending on the event, more exotic bets might be available as well.
Yes. This popular form of online sports betting will be available in Tennessee. This means that you will be able to place bets on a game already in progress, with odds that are updated on the fly.
By the same token, you will be able to cash out bets you’ve already placed, even before they’re officially settled.
Tennessee law states that operators will be required to purchase official league data in order to provide in-play services. That means that some operators may elect not to offer in-play betting, or have less favorable lines than you’d see in other states due to the increased cost. On the other hand, it will provide consistency between operators and possibly allow for a greater range of in-play bet types.
Sports betting operators in Tennessee will pay a tax of 20% on gross revenue, which is on the high side.
Regulations are also expected to contain an unusual requirement for a minimum hold — currently set at 8% — which could place an extra burden on operators that have an off month. License fees are steep as well, at $750,000 annually.
Daily fantasy sports have a comparatively modest 6% tax rate, while horse betting is not subject to any state tax at all.
Many illegal offshore sites serve US customers, both in Tennessee and elsewhere. Betting with these operators carries significant risks, however. Once legal sports betting goes live in Tennessee, it will be a much safer option. Some of the reasons for that include:
Below are some common questions and answers related to online sports betting in Tennessee.
Not yet, but you will be able to soon. Tennessee’s sports betting bill is now law, but licenses still need to be issued. The first sites should go live some time in mid-to-late 2020.
No. Tennessee has no land-based gambling industry. For the time being, sports betting will be online only.
Once sites are live, sign-up will be online, with no requirement for in-person verification. You will need to provide your personal info and scanned or photographed documents to establish your identity.
Yes, once sites are live, all payment processing will be conducted online. All the standard options should be available, such as credit cards, bank transfer and various online services such as PayPal and Neteller.
The legal betting age will be 21, as it is in most jurisdictions. Bettors will need to be located within state borders in order to log in and place bets. Standard prohibitions will apply, such as to athletes and coaching staff involved with the sports in question, to those who have requested self-exclusion, etc.
Unlike most other states to have legalized sports betting, Tennessee has no requirement for operators to have a land-based partner. This is largely due to the fact that no land-based gambling exists in the state. Therefore, any interested company can apply for a license to offer online sports betting license once the necessary regulatory framework is in place.
Fantasy sports licensing is likewise open to any interested party.
Horse betting is regulated at the federal level, and Tennessee has no specific laws regarding it. Therefore, all the major, nationally licensed sites accept customers from Tennessee.
As a result, Tennessee is among those states where DFS is not merely tolerated, but expressly licensed, regulated and subject to its own special taxes.
To date, six companies have received DFS licenses from the state:
Like the majority of US states, horse betting can be conducted legally over the internet in Tennessee. Pari-mutuel wagering on races predates the 2018 repeal of PASPA and the beginning of other forms of legal sports betting in the US.
In the absence of a dedicated gambling authority, the Tennessee Education Lottery has been tasked with regulation and licensing for online sports betting.
For daily fantasy sports, it is the Secretary of State who is responsible for establishing regulations and launching any investigations. Licensing has been delegated to the Division of Charitable Solicitations and Gaming.
Online horse betting falls under federal jurisdiction, and there is no state-level oversight in Tennessee.
Tennessee’s history of gambling is largely one of prohibition.
Lawmakers first passed a blanket ban on all forms of betting in 1906, killing off what was once a flourishing horse racing industry around the turn of the century. That situation remained unchanged for nearly 100 years.
In 2001, Tennessee legislators passed a bill to establish a lottery. This required a referendum, which took place in 2003, garnering approval from 58% of voters. The first tickets went on sale the following year.
In 2016, the daily fantasy sports craze was in full swing. Following an attempt by the Attorney General to prohibit them, legislators passed a bill expressly legalizing and regulating them.
Tennessee’s first attempt at a sports betting bill came in early 2019.
Though strongly opposed by social conservatives in the legislature, Bill H 1 did eventually make it onto the desk of Gov. Bill Lee. Despite his own ideological opposition to gambling, Lee opted not to veto the bill. He instead let his deadline for action expire, whereupon the bill became law by default.
Initially, there were hopes that sites would be ready to take bets by late 2019 or early 2020. Unfortunately, the state’s inexperience with gambling was evident as it has struggled to settle on the specifics of its regulatory framework. That led to delays and much discussion over certain rules likely to be unpopular with operators and bettors alike.
As of February 2020, the best estimate for the actual go-live date for Tennessee sports betting is some time prior to the beginning of the NFL season in August.