Tennessee sports betting bill faces heavy opposition in Committee

On Tuesday, Tennessee’s House State Government Committee discussed the intricacies of legislation that would allow sports betting in Tennessee.

The proposed legislation, House Bill 1, was initially written to authorize land-based and mobile sports betting as well as the creation of a new state gambling commission to regulate the activity.

In recent weeks Tennessee lawmakers unveiled several amendments to the bill.

The two most notable amendments included changing the bill to authorize mobile sports betting only, and charging the Tennessee Lottery with regulating the activity instead of creating a new state regulator.

During Tuesday’s discussion, lawmakers proposed several amendments, none of which were added to the legislation.

Representative Jason Powell proposed several amendments which included re-adding provisions for land-based sports betting to the bill, as well as the creation of a new state regulator.

Author of the bill, Representative Rick Staples, disagreed with these amendments suggesting that land-based sports betting would not be effective as there are no casinos in the state.

Powell also suggested lowering the licensing fee from $750,000 to $75,000 and increasing the total number of licenses available. These were both rejected by the 19 members of the Committee.

On top of this, Powell proposed that sports betting in Tennessee should be prohibited on Sundays and major public holidays such as Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving.

The committee voted 10 – 9 against this amendment, narrowly avoiding one of the most unusual sports betting provisions since PASPA was repealed.

The nine votes for the amendment came from lawmakers who oppose the idea of legalizing sports betting in Tennessee indicating a significant level of opposition to the bill.

Representative Johnny Shaw said: “I think we’re moving down the wrong path when we start legalizing gambling online. Folks are going to be sitting up in church on Sunday and everywhere else they’re going to be playing.”

Another representative compared the legalization of gambling to the legalization of drugs.

Representative Charles Armistead said: “If this legislation is approved … our legislature will be peddling the equivalent of cocaine.”

Shaw added: “Some things we just don’t do, and money is not everything. The state of Tennessee, if we can save one person, it’s much more important than making a million dollars, is the way I see this.”

Although the Committee agreed on certain aspects, lawmakers have yet to reach a vote on the bill.

The bill has been with the State Committee since 27 February, with discussions being pushed back several times.

During the discussion, Representative Curtis Halford said: “Let’s quit wasting everyone’s time and vote like we are supposed to do.”

Tuesday’s discussion ended with 13 members voting to delay a final vote on the bill.

It is unclear when or if a vote will be reached on the bill, as the legislative session ends in May and there are 23 bills that must be discussed beforehand.

House Bill 1 is scheduled to be discussed again on 2 April.

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