Tennessee Governor to Allow Sports Betting Bill to Become Law

  • Tennessee will legalize sports betting via the Tennessee Sports Gaming Act
  • Governor Bill Lee will allow the bill to become law without his signature
  • The bill passed within the Senate after leaving the House, then passed again in the House after approving Senate amendments
Governor Bill Lee of Tennessee has allowed the Tennessee Sports Gaming Act to pass without his signature.
Governor Bill Lee of Tennessee has allowed the Tennessee Sports Gaming Act to pass without his signature.

The state of Tennessee is the latest in the United States to approve sports betting legislation. The Senate recently passed the Tennessee Sports Gaming Act with a vote of 19-12, and it then moved to the House after amendments were made.

The House then voted in approval with a vote of 51-40, sending the bill to Governor Bill Lee’s desk. Lee has announced plans to allow the measure to become law without his signature.

The Governor’s Options

Lee had several options regarding the bill. He could veto it, sign the bill into law or allow it to pass without signing it. He has not been a strong supporter of a gambling expansion in the state. According to one of the VSO News articles, in the past, he was one of the main individuals standing in the way of sports betting legalization.

Historically, Lee had spoken out against gambling expansion, believing there to be a strong connection between gambling and crime. He has stated in the past that organized betting develops into organized crime, something that is not needed in the state of Tennessee.

However, over the past months, it was apparent that Lee’s stance on gambling had shifted. He now seems to be more open to the idea, but not open enough to place his signature on the measure.

Spokeswoman for Governor Lee, Laine Arnold said: “The governor has said he does not believe that the expansion is best, but he recognizes that many in the legislature found this to be an issue they want to explore further. He plans to let this become law without his signature.”

Different Approach

The Tennessee Sports Gaming Act was sponsored by Senator Steve Dickerson and Representative Rick Staples. Tennessee’s chosen approach to offering sports betting differs from other states that have legalized the option.

The original format of the bill included bricks and mortar betting locations. However, this portion of the bill was removed because of Lee’s opposition to such facilities.

The state’s lawmakers decided to go with an online-only approach. Other states have focused on land-based wagering first, then the online/mobile component, if it is allowed at all.

Sports betting will be offered to players aged 21 or older. The Tennessee Education Lottery has been appointed as the regulator of the new industry. A 20% privilege tax will be placed on online gambling.

According to Staples, the money raised from sports betting will go to both city and county governments. The funds will be used for road work as well as additional infrastructure needs. Local governments will receive a 15% share of proceeds.