$13.25 billion in gross wagers

Tennessee reaps $236 million from sports betting since 2019 legalization

Mary Beth Thomas, executive director of the Tennessee Sports Wagering Council
Reading time 1:26 min

Tennessee has reaped major financial benefits since lawmakers legalized online sports wagering in 2019, with the industry generating nearly $240 million in tax revenue for the state. Since the law was passed, more than $13 billion in gross wagers have been placed, redirecting funds that were previously wagered illegally.

Before legalization, it was estimated that $3 billion was being wagered illegally in Tennessee each year. The legislation not only established consumer protections but also created a new revenue stream for the state.

“We already have billions of dollars that leave the state going to other states that have casino gambling, so here’s a chance to do in-state sports betting that would capture dollars,” said Rep. Rick Staples (D-Knoxville) in 2018.

Since sportsbooks went live in November 2020, the number of participants and the volume of bets have steadily increased, according to Mary Beth Thomas, executive director of the Tennessee Sports Wagering Council.

At last check, there were around 1.5 million open betting accounts in Tennessee, and more than $13.25 billion in gross wagers made, Thomas said.

Of the nearly $240 million in revenue, known as the privilege tax, 80% funds the HOPE Scholarship, 15% supports local governments for infrastructure projects and emergency services, and 5% goes to the Tennessee Department of Mental Health for responsible gaming initiatives.

That provides a lot of scholarship money and a lot of help to local governments that would like a boost to their funding for important projects that they have,” Thomas noted.

The state's regulations ensure consumer protection and compliance by licensed sportsbooks. A recent audit by the Comptroller’s Office found no issues, highlighting the effectiveness of these regulations.

Tennessee also mandates that sportsbooks include gambling addiction resources in their advertisements, such as the Tennessee REDLINE and 1-800-GAMBLER. Additionally, the state offers a self-exclusion service and the University of Memphis Gambling Clinic provides treatment for gambling addiction.

I think that Tennessee has done a great job at balancing the interest in sports wagering and our need to regulate it in a fair and transparent manner so that Tennesseans have comfort that the sportsbooks that are licensed by the state of Tennessee are adhering to the law and doing the right thing,” Thomas said.

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