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Several meetings took place last Friday with state regulators adjusting final language changes to sports wagering rules, approving a new betting menu, and correcting language involving NCAA college football wagering. Thus far, three out of four operators have received licensed approval. Originally, the Tennessee Lottery Sports Wagering Committee had targeted November 1 as the kick-off date. However, it is an NFL Sunday with the heaviest action it was agreed not the best potential day to begin operation.
It was suggested by Tennessee Lottery CEO Rebecca Hargrove the Lottery launch operation with the three new licensees, DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel, and BetMGM a few days earlier for perhaps a few hours rather than begin on that Sunday. It would seem the best solution to face a day of the week when there were fewer games on the board rather than a busy college football or National Football League’s day.
Whether all in are agreement or not, the Lottery committee seems focused on commencing operation sometime on that November 1st weekend and be fully prepared.
Although three of the operators will be ready to go including DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel, and BetMGM, it appears that the fourth operator Tennessee Action 24/7 will not meet the deadline as its supplier Amelco has not yet been licensed. Submitting the application on September 23 to TEL (Tennessee Education Lottery), it received word that it would take six weeks to process the necessary background check. Assuming approval, Tennessee Action 24/7 could be in operation, shortly thereafter. At this juncture, three other operators have filed for an application for a license with the TEL.
Tennessee’s launch into sports wagering will come with some historic controversy as the first US state that will permit customers to bet on sports exclusively online and not at any onsite casino location.
Sports betting was first legalized in Tennessee in July 2019 when Governor Bill Lee let the period to sign legislation expire without his signature. Since then it has not been a unanimous political path directing sports wagering. The TEL has struggled to develop an infrastructure to manage sports betting in a state with no casino gaming history.
It has been planned that 20% of the revenue will go back into the state with most funds going into education and institutions of higher learning. Mental health initiatives have also been targeted as a source of funds from sports wagering.
Tennessee’s launch is important not only to the state but to other US states also considering an “online-only” approach toward their initial sports wagering plans. Given the present Covid-19 dominant effect, it will still be a measuring stick toward other legislative actions for new states weighing this decision.
Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.
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