Bill To Shake Up TN Sports Betting Regulation Passes Senate

Posted on April 26, 2021
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Written By on April 26, 2021

A bill that would ad more voices to TN sports betting regulation passed the Senate Thursday and heads to the House.

SB 588 would give the Sports Wagering Advisory Committee some real power. Currently, the nine-person panel appointed by various government leaders exists for suggestions on sports betting in Tennessee.

Sen. Ed Jackson sponsored the bill but said Lt. Gov. Randy McNally brought it to him. It would empower the committee to take disciplinary action against sportsbooks, as well as make decisions on Tennessee sports betting without the Tennessee Education Lottery‘s Board of Directors.

A companion bill, HB 1267, will be heard in the House Government Operations Committee on Tuesday.

TN sports betting regulation could use a boost

Given its recent issues, it seems the TEL could use a bit more help.

Tennessee sports betting made headlines for the wrong reasons since January. First, the TEL approved local sportsbook Action 24/7 to accept cash deposits at locations of its sister company, high-interest lender Advance Financial 24/7. A bill was eventually filed this year to end that practice but died in committee.

Part of the reason why that bill was crafted was because at least one customer of both Advance Financial and Action 24/7 told Rep. Darren Jernigan their winnings were being withheld to pay back a loan. Advance Financial denied any instance of that happening.

Action, then inaction

Then, irregular betting activity was found around the Super Bowl from two operators. While it was not described at the time, one of the situations involved a contracted employee of Action 24/7 that helped more than 40 bettors place illegal proxy bets in the state.

That news about the proxy betting came out when Action 24/7’s license was indefinitely suspended for nearly two dozen instances of alleged debit card fraud. Action took more than a week to report most of them. Action eventually won a temporary injunction, partially because the TEL didn’t follow its own rules.

When the TEL attempted to follow those rules after the injunction, the court informed them that was no longer an option.

Is SWAC the best way to handle regulations?

According to a story from Play Tennessee, eight members of the SWAC have no experience in gaming regulation:

  • Kevin Carroll, who worked with the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office
  • Brian Fazenbaker, who is a former FBI agent and corporate investigator for Nissan
  • Michael Keeney
  • Samuel Lee, who has worked with private law firms and the Knox County District Attorney’s office
  • Tom Lee, an attorney and journalist
  • Billy Orgel, who runs a communications company and is a partial owner of the Memphis Grizzlies
  • Kandace Stewart, the director of business operations and external affairs for the Grizzlies.
  • Hanes Torbett, who has an insurance business
  • John Valliant, Jr., an attorney

That might not cut it for a state that definitely could use some gaming experience from the people making the final decisions. Sen. Richard Briggs also wondered if this was enough of a change when SB 588 passed his committee:

“I know that on the Lottery board there have been some questions about the best structure to have on this and there are some members that have felt it hasn’t worked real well. I’m supportive of this amendment but I think at some point in the future we may need to look at a different structure on how we’re doing it because there have been problems.

“We’re new to the sports gambling game but it just seems like there’s been issues that have come up along several lines and we may need to have another structure to look at this.”

Matthew Waters Avatar
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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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