Lawmakers in Tennessee have sent a bill to legalize online sports betting to the governor.
The Senate heard S 16 on Tuesday morning, adopting and amending the House substitute (H 1) and voting 20-12 in favor of passage. The House passed the previous language by a 58-37 vote last week and promptly concurred with the Senate changes.
Just like that, the Tennessee Legislature becomes the fourth in the US to authorize single-game wagering this year. The fate of each proposal now rests in the hands of its respective governor.
Of the four, though, the TN sports betting bill creates the least attractive framework for regulation.
Betting on Sports Tennessee
This effort had a difficult path in the House, and the amended version is a distant relative of the original.
The lower chamber removed provisions for retail betting in committee, passing it as an online-only measure. Additional House amendments increased the license fee hundredfold (to $750,000 annually) and doubled the tax rate (to 20%). One notable Senate change empowers sports leagues to request certain restrictions.
The bill also retains language restricting operators to official data sources for settling in-play bets. Such provisions allow statistics to be weaponized and monetized, representing an unwelcome influence from professional sports leagues.
The NBA, MLB, and NFL are listed among the registered lobbying organizations in Tennessee.
For all the legwork they’ve done over the last year, this type of mandate has no statutory precedent in the US. Eight states currently regulate sports betting sites, and licensees are not subject to data restrictions in any of them.
Another pillar of the leagues’ proposal, the integrity fee, is not present in the Tennessee bill or any state law.
What’s next for TN sports betting?
The final action on TN sports betting now rests with Gov. Bill Lee, and there’s no indication he plans to veto the bill. He’ll have 10 days to weigh the decision once the paperwork hits his desk. Local reporting from The Tennessean indicates he may let it lapse into law without intervening one way or the other.
Meanwhile, both of the primary sponsors have recently come under the microscope for their behavior outside the chamber. The federal government is preparing to sue Sen. Steve Dickerson for alleged fraud, and Rep. Rick Staples is the subject of sexual misconduct accusations.
If the governor happens to veto the bill this year, its prospects would take a big step backward.
Regardless of the result in Tennessee, the list of states with legal, single-game wagering will soon grow for the first time this year. Enabling bills in Iowa, Indiana, and Montana are also fully passed and awaiting signatures from their governors.