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Tennessee To Enact Legal Sports Betting

05/07/2019

Tennessee has taken a step forward in terms of legal sports wagering as the State Senate has now passed a bill that would legalize sports wagering. The Tennessee House had  previously adopted a legalized sports wagering measure by a vote of 58-37 in favor. The State Senate made a few minor changes to the provision and passed their version by a vote of 20-12. The two bills will now be reconciled and sent to the Governor. 

The major drama in Tennessee over this measure revolved around if the newly elected Governor Bill Lee would put his signature on such a measure. He is a conservative governor that some thought might veto the measure. However, Governor Lee has indicated that he will allow the measure to become law though he will be withholding his signature. He states that he has personal opposition to gambling itself but that he will allow the bill to become law regardless. 

The rules in Tennessee allow a Governor to allow a law passed by the State House and Senate to become a law even without their signature by simply allowing the bill to remain untouched on their desk for ten days. The Governor seems to be hinting that this is exactly what he plans to do. It is a way for Governor Lee to allow a popular measure to become law without explicitly putting his signature to paper and angering those who are opposed. 

Tax rates on legalized sports wagering in Tennessee look to be set at about twenty percent as things stand right now. There are also steep licensing fees for any bookie to get up and running in the state. However, advocates for legal sports wagering are very excited by these developments in the Volunteer State. The speculation before had been that Tennessee would not be bringing legal sports wagering to its borders until much later down the line if at all. 

The expansion of legalized online sports wagering is starting to catch fire after the Supreme Court ruled that legalizing sports wagering is a matter to be left to the states to decide. Many states quickly jumped on board to legalize this activity as they saw an opportunity to fill their government coffers with much needed additional tax revenue. It is hard to blame cash-strapped states for wanting to do exactly that. 

The battle is far from over in the state of Tennessee though. While early reporting seems to point towards Governor Lee allowing the bill to become law, that is not something that is completely clear at this point. Outside pressure from conservative anti-gambling groups could get to him and pressure him to veto the legislation. If he does do that, then legalized sports wagering in Tennessee would be taking a big step backwards. Vetoing the legislation would make lawmakers highly unlikely to attempt to pass such a bill again going forward at least until there is a new Governor. Tennessee sports wagering fans will wait and watch for the outcome of this high stakes political moment.

 
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