New TN Sports Betting Executive Director Addresses Minimum Hold

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TN sports betting

The Sports Wagering Advisory Council made one of its most important decisions to date last week as it takes over as TN sports betting regulator.

The SWAC hired Mary Beth Thomas as its executive director, pending negotiations and a background check. The background check should not be an issue, though. Thomas is currently the general counsel for Secretary of State Tre Hargett.

Thomas beat out Roger Guillemette and Scott Sloan for the position. Sloan is another Tennessee-based lawyer, serving as general counsel for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

Guillemette is the only one of the three with gaming experience. He currently handles sports betting and casino compliance for the Rhode Island Lottery.

The SWAC hired Thomas soon after all three public interviews, save for a short debate between selecting her or Sloan. Most SWAC members pushed for the decision to be made the same day because the council takes over full Tennessee sports betting regulatory duties as of Jan. 1, 2022.

Thomas understands mandatory TN sports betting hold

Hiring Thomas means the 10% mandatory hold has another sympathetic ear within the SWAC ranks. Addressing pushback against the policy is one of the issues Thomas specifically mentioned:

“I also think you are going to be confronted, as you know from the rulemaking hearing, with a lot of questions about hold. And I understand exactly why that hold is there. I’ve been giving some thought about different ways that you could possibly approach that and get that end result.”

Thomas added her position is “whatever the council’s position is.” She believes the legislature made it clear it wanted the 10% mandatory hold despite it not making the bill.

BetMGM, Caesars Sportsbook, DraftKings Sportsbook and Penn National offered comments against the policy.

The SWAC is not only proposing to keep the mandatory hold but expanding it. Under a proposed rule change, sportsbooks would be checked every quarter instead of annually on maintaining that hold. The council accepted written comments through Tuesday.

Still items TEL could handle before handoff

The Tennessee Education Lottery is more than willing to hand off sports betting regulation. But there is still work that could be done.

There are still multiple sportsbooks and suppliers waiting to be approved. PointsBet is one of those sportsbooks, according to a company representative at the Oct. 5 SWAC meeting. Barstool Sportsbook and Wagr are the most recent operators to receive approval.

The TEL’s next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 16.