Sports Betting in Tennessee Faces Delays, Could Launch in 2021

For those who have been counting down the days until sports betting goes live in the state of Tennessee, it looks like the wait is going to be even longer.

Tennessee’s sports betting bill was approved over a year ago when Governor Bill Lee allowed it to become law without actually putting his signature on it. It was then set to go live on September 1st, 2020, but it appears that there are some unforeseen holdups that could push it back into early 2021.

What’s Causing the Delay?

While there’s little doubt that sports betting will have to wait until beyond the targeted date of September 1st, proponents of this venture are confused about what’s holding up the process.

At the top of the list, for reasons why there’s a delay, is the fact that the state hasn’t approved of any sports betting operators as of late-July. There can’t be any sports betting in Tennessee if there are no operators to take the wagers.

The way the process is set up is that an operator can apply for a license, which is then up to the board of directors of the Tennessee Education Lottery (TEL) to either approve or deny that application. They have 90 days to make that decision.

At the time of publication, there wasn’t even one single operator listed on the TEL website that had been approved. As for which operators have applied, that information is not publically shared. The lack of transparency has also created frustrations with industry leaders.

Last month, during a meeting of the Sports Wagering Advisory Council, it was mentioned that there were currently “three experienced operators” who have gone ahead and begun the entire application process.

As for which operators, TEL is remaining tight-lipped and not releasing any details. Many are guessing that these “experienced operators” could be the likes of PointsBet, DraftKings, BetMGM, FanDuel, or BetRivers.

A Little Late for the Return of Sports

After doing some quick math, one would see that if an operator were to go ahead and submit their application today, it could take up until late October before any sort of decision was made. And then there’s the timeframe an operator would need to set up shop and rollout their platform.

Clearly this takes people well past the shortened MLB season, past the start of the football season, and beyond the end of both the NBA and NHL abbreviated seasons.

Although there’s no news on approved operators, the TEL has managed to approve four vendors and the sports betting regulations. Those were some pretty big hurdles. Unfortunately, the momentum from clearing these hurdles has come to a complete halt.

The tax revenue that was set is far from attractive to sports betting operators. The state will place a 20% tax on the adjusted gross income. Additionally, the application fee is a hefty $750,000 dollars.

In comparison to other states, it doesn’t make Tennessee very competitive or attractive to operators. Some industry insiders speculate that this could be part of the delay in getting and approving applications.

It should also be noted that Tennessee only approved mobile sports betting, which was unheard of at the time of its passing. As of now, many pundits believe that sports betting will not go live until early 2021 due to these unclear delays.

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Rick Rockwell

As a longtime freelance writer, avid sports fan, former athlete, and experienced sports bettor, Rick Rockwell has risen up the ranks at GamblingSites.org to become the self-professed "King of the Blog" in his first year with the site.

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