Sports Betting in Tennessee

Tennessee has had a long-standing impact on American culture. The state is often referred to as the birthplace of country music, it even contains the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Tennessee is also the home of Elvis Presley’s home, Graceland, but when it comes to gambling, Tennessee is one of the strictest states in America. The state is so strict that there are no land-based casinos, racetracks or venues at which residents can play poker in the state. So where does the state stand on sports betting? Let’s find out.

Is sports betting legal in Tennessee?

Yes, sports wagering is legal in the state of Tennessee. In May 2019, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee allowed the sports betting bill, HB 1, to become law without his signature. When HB 1 was sent to Lee for final approval, he said that he would allow the bill to become law without his signature as he does not support the expansion of gambling.

The passage of the bill legalized state-wide online and mobile sports betting only. Under the law, operators will be required to pay $50,000 to apply for a sports betting license and a further $750,000 to secure a sports betting license, these will need to be renewed on an annual basis.

Tennessee’s sports betting law is unique in the sense that it only permits online and mobile sports betting, not land-based sports betting. This marked a first for the US sports betting market.

The Tennessee Lottery will oversee sports betting in the state and is currently accepting applications for online betting licenses. A launch date for sports betting has yet to be announced.

Pari-mutuel betting on horse racing and fantasy sports are also legal in Tennessee. However, because there are no race tracks in the state, residents can only use an online platform to place wagers.

Where will I be able to bet on sports in Tennessee?

There are no brick and mortar gambling venues in Tennessee which means that, unless new establishments are built here, residents will be limited to betting online.

What sports will I be able to bet on?

The bill describes sporting events as “professional sporting or athletic event, any collegiate sporting or athletic event.” This means that residents will be able to bet on a variety of sports including football, basketball, hockey, baseball, soccer, NASCAR, boxing and UFC. Residents can bet on major leagues such as the MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL, as well as collegiate leagues such as the NCAA football and basketball contests. 

What else can I bet on in Tennessee?

Tennessee residents may only partake in two types of real-money gambling in the state: pari-mutuel bets on horse racing events and betting on fantasy sports with sites like DraftKings and FanDuel. In 2004, the state also launched a lottery game for residents to play. Residents and visitors can also play social casino games that don’t involve real money, such as Zynga, Big Fish, Slotomania and Double Down Casino.

All other forms of gambling in Tennessee are illegal. Section 39-17-501 of the Tennessee Code states that: “Gambling is contrary to the public policy of this state and means risking anything of value for a profit whose return is to any degree contingent on chance, or any games of chance associated with casinos, including, but not limited to, slot machines, roulette wheels and the like.” It is because almost all casino games include an element of chance that they are illegal in Tennessee- even for friends and family to play private poker games.

Tennessee gambling laws do not make a distinction between land-based and online gambling, which means this ban on gambling on “contingent on chance” applies to both. Participating in unlawful gambling in Tennessee is classed as a Class C misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $50 fine.

The state also has a statute that covers “gambling promotion” which means that hosting illegal gambling activities and promoting them to make a profit is classed as a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months jail time and a $500 fine.

If Tennessee residents wish to participate in casino gambling or sports betting, they will need to visit gaming venues in other states where gambling is legal and regulated.

Are offshore gambling sites legal in Tennessee?

Offshore gambling sites are illegal in Tennessee. Aside from legality, we’d recommend steering clear of offshore gambling and sports betting sites because of the lack of regulation. Illegal and unregulated sites may not be sure and won’t always have measures in place to protect vulnerable players. You also have no way of finding out who is handling the money you deposit into your online account when gambling at offshore gambling sites.

You can spot offshore gambling sites by looking at the website’s domain name. If you see a domain that ends in .EU or .AG it does not hold a license to operate in Tennessee and therefore should be avoided at all costs.

Will it be safe to bet on sports in Tennessee?

Current Tennessee gambling laws are very strict and this extends to the regulatory framework for sports betting. Regulations ensure that ensure gambling in the state is safe and fair for all involved. However, it’s also up to gamblers to take responsibility for safe and fair gambling, and never gambling more than you can afford to lose is vital.  There are also other organisations that can provide support if you believe that you, or a loved one may be suffering from gambling problems, including the National Council on Problem Gambling and the Tennessee Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services.

You can contact the National Problem Gambling Helpline via:
Phone: 1-800-522-4700
Text: 1-800-522-4700
Online chat

You can contact the Tennessee Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services:

Donathan Knowles, Program Specialist
Dept. of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
Phone: (615) 770-0460
Email: [email protected]

Who regulates gambling in Tennessee?

It’s the Division of Charitable Solicitations, Fantasy Sports, and Gaming that oversees gambling activity in Tennessee.

How old do I have to be to gamble in Tennessee?

Players in Tennessee must be 18 years old to participate in any form of gambling available there.

The journey to legal and regulated sports betting in Tennessee

1906 – The state of Tennessee prohibited wagering on horse racing which led to the collapse of the previously successful racing industry.

1992 – Congress passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) prohibiting sports betting across US states. Four states were made exempt from the law: Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana. These states had legal sports betting regulations in place.

2003 – A voter referendum was held in which citizens voted for the state to run a lottery. The lottery is called the Education Lottery and any profit generated through the lottery is allocated to educational projects in Tennessee.

2004 – The state’s first lottery draw took place.

2005 – The Attorney General shared their view on poker tournaments in regard to the state’s broad legislation. The Attorney General said that poker tournaments fall under the state’s current gambling laws, even if nobody is making money from hosting the games.

2010 – Charity bingo and lottery events were permitted as a way of generating money for good causes. These are limited, licensed and strictly intended to generate money for good causes.

2016 – The state passed the Fantasy Sports Act which permits fantasy sports operators to purchase a license to operate in Tennessee.

2017 – A bill was introduced by State Representative Larry Miller which would legalize casino gambling, but the bill didn’t make it past the committee.

2018 – On 14 May, the Court reached a decision. In a 7 – 2 vote it was agreed that one of the clauses in PASPA violated the Tenth Amendment, as it commandeered power from states to regulate their own gambling industries. This paved the way for all US states to decide whether or not to legalize sports betting. In the weeks after the repeal of PASPA a number of US sportsbooks launched across the country.

In November 2018, Representative Rick Staples authored a new sports betting bill titled the “Tennessee Sports Gaming Act.” This act would enable voters to vote in a local election to permit sports betting. This will be discussed by the state legislature in the 2019 legislative session.

2019 – In May, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee returned the sports betting bill, HB 1, without his signature allowing the bill to become law. With this, sports betting was legalized in Tennessee.

2020 – In May, the Tennessee Lottery began accepting license applications from operators hoping to offer sports betting.

For more regulatory updates on sports betting in Tennessee, has got you covered.

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Last updated:
15th May 2020
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