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Sports betting in Tennessee a step closer

The state of Tennessee has opened the door to iGaming companies, and has invited interested parties to put forward their applications for sports betting licences. 

The Tennessee Education Lottery (TEL) Board of Directors this month approved rules and processes to establish and support a responsible and competitive sports wagering program in Tennessee.

Four separate categories will be used to process the documentation, and Karen Lenoir will take the role of Contract Compliance Coordinator for the licensing stage. 

The categories for sports betting licences will be as follows: 

  • Sports gaming operator;
  • Vendor; 
  • Supplier; 
  • Operator and supplier. 

Green light from Governor

Governor for Tennessee, Bill Lee, last year gave the green light for the state to legalise sports betting, despite having previously expressed objections to the further development of gambling.

Though Senate Bill 16 had already gained the approval of the House of Representatives and the Senate it was not signed off by Lee, but according to state legislation the approval of the bill does not require Lee’s signature to become law. 

Lee’s press secretary told local media that the governor had said he was not an advocate of the expansion of gambling, but recognized that many in the legislature wanted to explore the issue further, and he planned to let it become law without his signature.

Regulations for the market were finalised earlier this month following their initial drafting in November 2019, and the lottery board now has 90 days to choose whether or not it accepts or declines applications. 

Three separate licence levels are available. The first two - which come with a non-refundable $5,000 application fee - are as follows: 

  • Level I (costing $750,000); 
  • Level II (costing $75,000).

A third application level (Level III) costing $7,500 is also available. 

What it will mean for operators 

Sports gambling operators in Tennessee will face a tax of  20% of their gross gaming revenue, to be paid on a monthly basis. 

Advertising in the state will also be strictly controlled, and any promotional material related to this type of activity will need to be approved by the lottery at least 30 days before it is scheduled to go live. 

After the regulations were approved by the lottery, TEL Board Chair Susan Lanigan is reported to have said: 

“These rules reflect the significant work that went into establishing the processes and requirements for licensing and regulating interactive sports wagering in Tennessee.

“The board thanks the TEL and the Sports Wagering Advisory Council for their thoughtful help and guidance.”

The fact that the state is currently casino-free will mean that sports betting will be restricted to mobile and online platforms only. 

Those firms that secure a license will also be forced to use only official data from the sporting leagues, although this will be without any form of integrity fee attached.

State chiefs anticipate raising tax revenue somewhere in the region of $50m per year, and these funds will go to local government, education and paying for the treatment of problem gamblers.

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