Memphis residents and visitors might be able to bet on their favorite teams soon if a new bill is made into law this year. With the recent push for legalized forms of betting, Tennessee is shaping up to add their name to the growing list of states with legal sports betting.
The Tennessee Sports Gaming Act would allow local governments to individually decide if they want to allow sports gambling. State Representative Rick Staples (Democrat), the bill’s sponsor, says that the bill is meant to allow local governments to take advantage of a new source of income.
Staples goes on to detail how billions of dollars leaves Tennessee to go to neighboring states that already allow gambling and sports betting. Rep. Staples feels that since the federal government has allowed individual states the right to legalize sports betting then Tennessee should take advantage of the opportunity.
Under this proposed legislation, a Gaming Commission would be established and would work with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to ensure regulated establishments.
Further, the bill would be limited to the four largest cities in the state, and it would be limited to streets or neighborhoods designated by city councils.
Local communities would be required to petition their government with at least 10 percent of the voting pool to call for a vote to legalize betting in their area.
Staples’ bill is gathering support. If it passes, the tax rate would be 10 percent on the gross income of anyone holding a betting license, paid monthly. The revenue would be broken down as follows:
Half of the money for the local governments would have to go towards their school systems and the other half would have to be used for local infrastructure projects.
This bill, along with the one being drafted by Brian Kelsey is set to be discussed when the legislature meets on January 8.
A Republican Senator, Brian Kelsey, is also coming up with a bill:
“I am in the process of drafting a sports betting bill that would generate revenue specifically for preK-12 education. I think it is important to have local control over where sports betting takes place, so my bill would allow City Councils in Memphis and the other three large cities to designate areas for physical sports betting locations subject to a vote by the people. Local governments will also have the authority to collect some of the revenue from these physical sports betting locations. I will be discussing the issue with my legislators when we return Nashville next week.”
Dr. Ted Bender, who is with Turning Point and Addiction Campuses, is only cautiously optimistic about the bills:
“It’ll be interesting to see if this bill passes if that increases the gambling problem in this country or it just stays the same and the money is just rerouted to different places.”
He also discussed what should be done with any tax revenue from sports gambling:
“I would really hope that the lawmakers strongly consider putting money towards mental health and addiction treatment as a way to kind of help people who are struggling with this in the first place.”
If a bill passes, it will require that companies who run the sports betting operations be located in Tennessee. Furthermore, there’s a plan to place kiosks throughout the state for residents to place their bets.
This is a great idea considering that the bills call for only a small number of major cities be allowed to house a sportsbook.
The belief is that sports betting could generate income and tax dollars for not only the cities that have the sportsbooks, but also the smaller regions of the state that aren’t seeing tourism dollars and big business.
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