Tennessee Lottery Gives Update On Irregular Sports Betting Activity

Posted on February 23, 2021
Tennessee sports betting

Sports betting in Tennessee has taken off since its Nov. 1 launch but the market’s regulators still have plenty to figure out.

The Tennessee Education Lottery‘s Sports Wagering Advisory Council met Tuesday to discuss multiple topics that never came up in the nearly year and a half it took to launch TN sports betting: how certain violations are classified, various payment methods, and sports pools and peer-to-peer betting.

Despite not having everything quite figured out, Tennessee’s market is off to an impressive start. There’s been $523 million bet in the state from launch through Jan. 31 with $49 million in gross sports betting revenue.

The Council also heard new information from the Lottery on account bans announced at last week’s board meeting. Two unspecified sportsbooks had 74 accounts closed recently with law enforcement looking into those issues.

More information on Tennessee sports betting bans

Last week’s meeting left the details there, but the Lottery provided some additional information when pressed by Council member Kevin Carroll.

Carroll asked if the accounts were 74 individuals or individuals using multiple accounts:

“It was both,” said Danny DiRienzo, a sports gaming investigator with the Lottery. “There was a group of individual accounts and there was another group of multiple accounts being used by one person.”

Hard look at peer-to-peer betting

ZenSports applied for its Tennessee sports betting license back in November, but its application is still in limbo.

The sportsbook provider wants to offer traditional sports betting, as well as peer-to-peer betting. P2P would let any two bettors on the platform agree to and place a wager against each other. ZenSports would take a transaction fee and hold the funds until the bet is settled.

TEL CEO Rebecca Hargrove told the Council that the Lottery isn’t in favor of P2P betting. That’s for two reasons:

  • It’s not entirely clear it is allowed under the enabling law since licensees have to be the ones accepting the bet.
  • Without technically accepting and paying out the bet, there’s no adjusted gross income to tax under the law.

The Lottery will seek an opinion from the attorney general’s office based on the suggestion from council member Tom Lee.

The Council did, however, have a more positive take on sports pools and advised the Lottery to pursue it as another form of revenue. Any changes allowing that in Tennessee likely won’t happen before March Madness, though.

Will Tennessee allow sports betting gift cards?

Another positive conversation was had concerning gift cards for sports betting companies. The Council had no opposition to that as long as the cards couldn’t be bought with credit.

“I don’t want to be a payday lender – I just used that, I’m not picking on payday lenders – I don’t want to be somebody that gets people further and further into debt,” Council Chairman Billy Orgel said. “But if they happen to have the cash in their pocket and they can buy it, they can buy it. I don’t know why they would but I don’t want to prey on people in any way.”

There’s another reason why payday lenders could be on Orgel’s mind, of course. One legislator behind a bill looking at payday lenders and their involvement in sports betting told LSR at least one person had winnings from Action 24/7 rerouted to pay off loans from Action’s sister company Advance Financial 24/7.

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Matthew Waters

Matthew Waters is a reporter covering legal sports betting and the gambling industry. Previous stops include Fantini Research and various freelance jobs covering professional and amateur sports in Delaware and the Philadelphia area.

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