2019 continues to be momentous for the industry of legal U.S. sports betting as four states have now passed legislation. Montana was the first state to legalize, but Indiana and Iowa weren’t too far behind. Tennessee has officially become the fourth state to do so, as the state made sports betting legal just this past Friday.
Tennessee’s laws regarding sports betting are unlike any other that has legalized so far. Their bill only permits sports betting through online or mobile app. Most states with legal sports betting don’t even allow mobile or online wagers, but Tennessee has legalized it only in digital format. Something that likely influenced this is the fact that Tennessee doesn’t actually have any casinos, which legal states often use as a sports betting establishment.
The approved bill also has language that requires formation of a commercial agreement for any bets relating to in-play (bets made after a game has already started). While this doesn’t help sportsbooks, it does help sports leagues that have been lobbying for such an agreement for more than a year. Not only that, but sports leagues also have the ability to decide which bets are allowed.
Although the bill was ultimately passed, it certainly faced a good deal of opposition getting there. Even as Governor Bill Lee decided the bill’s fate, there was still plenty of uncertainty. Governor Lee decided to return the bill without a signature, which still allowed the bill to pass. The Governor opposed the bill, but decided not to veto it because it didn’t try and expand to casinos. Governor Lee holds the opinion that casinos are the most negative form of gambling, and that a compromise is the best solution at this point in time.
The bill barely passed through the state’s House and Senate, and the Governor didn’t even like it. Despite all the obstacles, the online/mobile only sports betting bill was indeed approved in Tennessee. It will become law on July 1st, just a little more than a month after becoming approved.
Even though sports betting will be legal come July, there isn’t an established gambling market in the state, so it will certainly be longer until any sort of structured sports betting is available. It still sets a great precedent for any future sports betting bills in other states considering the unique language.