Despite his distaste for anything gambling-related, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee indicated his half-hearted support for legal sports betting in the state. He allowed H1 to pass without a signature, making the Volunteer State the fourth this year to adopt legal and regulated online gambling.
Tennessee’s legislation is different to other laws passed by other states for a number of reasons. Most importantly, however, Tennessee is forcing operators to enter into commercial agreements with professional sports leagues for in-play betting options.
Since the US Supreme Court ruled last year that that an almost nationwide sports betting ban was unconstitutional, sports leagues have been fighting to benefit from the ruling. They have been lobbying to get states to pay an ‘integrity fee’ for the use of their official data. This is the first time, however, that a state has ordered some type of fee to be paid to the leagues; with all other states choosing to ignore the request when they passed their own laws.
Another way that the Tennessee bill differs from other states, is that is gives the sports leagues power to restrict the types of bets available to players. In another first, Tennessee is the only state that allows online sports betting only.
The law allows betting on professional and amateur sporting events in Tennessee, including college sports. It calls for the creation of a state gambling commission, but if that happens sooner rather than later, sports betting could come to the state by July 1st, which is when the law takes effect.
Operators are facing hefty financial commitment if they are interested in entering the Tennessee sports betting industry. Revenues will be taxed at a back-breaking 20%; and that’s besides the $750,000 annual license fee.
Governor Lee has made no secret of his opposition to H1, but he wrote in a letter that “compromise is a central part of governing”. He also warned that if anybody tried to expand casino gambling in the state, he would immediately veto the idea.