Tennessee Tip Toes Into The Sports Betting Discussion For 2019
The State of Tennessee is gearing up to be yet another state on the Eastern seaboard to legalize sports betting. While it will not occur until at least 2019, steps are being taken to put Tennessee into the driver’s seat to soon be able to offer sports betting to its constituents.
Tennessee Representative Rick Staples is leading the charge by way of introducing a sports betting bill prior to the start of the 2019 legislative session. Staples’ bill was announced in early November. It includes a 10% tax on gaming revenue and, importantly, contains a provision that would allow for mobile wagering in the state.
Keeping the tax rate down and offering mobile wagering options is important for Tennessee, and all other states, to offer products that are competitive to offshore, illegal websites and apps. Pennsylvania has been criticized for pushing a 36% tax rate that would likely be pushed to the consumer and potentially create a situation that causes companies to stay away from the state and makes betting legally less desirable for some. Further, many states that are regulating legal sports betting have yet to include access for mobile apps, which could also deter some who would otherwise bet legally from shifting their monies from offshore entities.
Tennessee has traditionally been very conservative when it comes to gambling in general, deeming that it is “contrary to the public policy” of the state. Yet, it did enact the Fantasy Sports Act in 2016, which established a regulatory framework for playing paid fantasy sports.
There are currently six states that offer a regulated, legal framework for sports betting — Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, West Virginia, Mississippi and New Mexico. States such as Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois and Tennessee’s neighbor Kentucky could be coming up next in the near future. As more states make sports betting legal, particularly surrounding Tennessee, it could add pressure on lawmakers to do the same in order to add a strong new source of revenue from taxation of bets placed.