Is Sports Betting Legal in Tennessee?

Tennessee sports betting is on the way, with a chance it could be live by July 2020.

The state passed legislation in April 2019 to legalize sports betting. It will be offered online only with sites and mobile apps, not in brick-and-mortar retail locations. That’s the opposite of what many states have passed in the newly-legal United States market.

But Tennessee has imposed a mandatory 10% hold, meaning bettors will be paying more juice on every bet than they would with an offshore sportsbook, or in another legal state like New Jersey or Nevada. It will likely force existing bettors to continue wagering illegally, and frustrate new bettors.

Tennessee said it reserves the right to revisit these rules after one year of operating, but doesn’t have to. So the market could become more consumer-friendly before the 2021 football season, though it’s no guarantee.

Yes, but you cannot bet in Tennessee quite yet.

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Tennessee Sports Betting
  • Can you bet online? Pending
  • Can you bet in person? Pending

Sportsbooks haven’t started taking bets yet in Tennessee, but you can expect some of the major players like Draftkings, FanDuel, BetMGM and more to operate there. The state has no limit on online sports betting licenses. Operators must pay $750,000 and a 20% tax rate, which are on the high end among newly legal states but not outrageous. It might prevent some smaller players from entering the market. The mandatory 10% hold, however, will be the biggest deterrent to many operators, since they’ll struggle to generate meaningful revenue if bettors continue wagering illegally due to unfair pricing.

Possible Sports Betting Apps

Here are some sports betting sites and apps that might be coming to Tennessee in 2020.

Even with these rules in place, big operators will be in Tennessee. Draftkings, 888, BetMGM all said they will have a presence in the state.

“We are committed to working with the Tennessee Lottery throughout the application and licensing process and, pending successful licensure, look forward to offering our top-rated sportsbook to sports fans in Tennessee,” DraftKings’ chief compliance officer Tim Dent told Gambling.com.

We graded on its sports betting bill and experience relative to other states.

Overall Tennessee Sports Betting Experience: D+

Tennessee got two major points right — online betting and depositing — and then squandered both with mandatory unfair pricing.  Some casual bettors will still sign up and bet, but anyone who’s even a little serious about sports betting will return to local bookies and offshore websites offering reasonable odds.

Mobile Betting Options: A-

Tennessee will have online sports betting. That’s a great start and a welcome surprise. Online betting is the only way for states to generate meaningful revenue, and it’s the preferred method for bettors. More than 80% of the betting handle in New Jersey has come online. The state has generated $62.6 million in tax revenue over the last 24 months.

Deposit: A

With no in-person casinos, Tennessee bettors should be able to register and deposit online. Eliminating in-person sign-ups and deposits is a huge benefit to operators and bettors, who will be more willing to use multiple sportsbooks.

 Fair Pricing: F

Tennessee got the first two steps right. And then it fumbled entering the red zone. And then faceplanted. The 10% mandatory hold on each bet will force operators to pass costs onto the consumer. And the operators have to. There won’t be a savvy legal book that comes in and undercuts the market.

Instead of betting an NFL point spread at -110, you’ll be betting at -120 or worse. It’s already difficult enough to make money in sports betting. Now anyone in Tennessee really has the odds stacked against them.

 Sport Offerings: B

We don’t know exactly what sports will be offered in Tennessee, but bettors can wager on college teams in the state like the Tennessee Volunteers or Memphis Tigers. In some other states, wagering on college teams in the state is prohibited. But it’s nice to see a state with such loyal college fans have the option to bet on their teams.

Tennessee won’t have live betting on college teams, and its requirement for sportsbook to buy official league data to offer any live betting may limit what’s available.

The 10% Hold, Explained

Tennessee’s sports betting rules and regulations are terrible for both bettors and sportsbooks. The state did say it can revisit its rules after one year, so hopefully by the 2021 football season, it will have a more consumer-friendly market.

The state is mandating books generate at least a 10% hold and cap payouts at 90% of a bettor’s wager, meaning bettors in Tennessee will be forced to pay a much steeper cut to operators than what you see in other states or in illegal markets.

So what is a hold? It’s the percentage of money the sportsbook holds onto after all bets have been settled, or simply gross revenue divided by dollars wagered. Nevada and New Jersey, the two most developed sports betting markets in the country, have been between 5-7%.

A 10% hold implies -120 or -125 on each side of a standard bet with two outcomes, as opposed to the -110 you see most places. 

So a typical NFL bet might look like this:

  • Tennessee Titans +6.5 (-120)
  • New England Patriots -6.5 (-125)

So instead of wagering $110 to win $100 on an NFL point spread, Tennessee bettors will have to wager $125 to win $100. That’s a massive disadvantage.

Again: For every $100 you bet, you’re going to be paying the sportsbook an extra $10 or $15. Sportsbooks may get to 10% differently, and choose to bury massive holds into bet types where it’s more difficult to calculate the hold with the naked eye.

Here are some other downstream effects you might see at a Tennessee online sportsbook.

  • Caps on parlay and futures payouts so sportsbooks can limit their exposure. If the Memphis Grizzlies are 100-1 to win the NBA title at most books, you could be capped at 50-1 in Tennessee. If you bet a 2-team parlay, you may get paid 2-1 instead of 2.6-1.
  • Even worse odds than -125 to balance risk
  • Completely unfair one-way markets

There appears to be some disagreement within the Tennessee lottery about whether or not a mandatory hold is the right move.

Tennessee Lottery President and CEO Rebecca Hargrove said the cap would guarantee taxable revenue for the state, and create an equal playing field for smaller players so that bigger books can’t operate at a loss to scoop up market share (which they’ve been doing in other states).

The lottery’s new sports betting director, Jennifer Roberts, wants no cap so the state can be “fully competitive with the illegal market.”

Again, Tennessee can review these rules after one year. So we hope it gets better in 2021. So what happens if a sportsbook doesn’t get to 10%? We don’t know, but likely a loss of license.

“The Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation’s Board of Directors reserves the right to determine the consequences of failure of an Operator to meet this requirement, within the confines of the Rules, Regulations and Standards and the governing legislation,” Dave Smith, director of communications for the Tennessee lottery, said in an email.

The Good: A Tennessee Betting Success

Tennessee going with full online sports betting is great news. That’s step one for success.

It’s somewhat surprising to see a southern state with no existing gambling presence go straight to online betting. But it’s definitely a good sign, and could lay the blueprint for Georgia or Alabama, which have no existing casinos or gambling.

It also avoided a few disastrous proposals, including:

  • No betting on Sundays from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. or on holidays
  • No betting on an “occurrence determinable by one person or one play”, which would have prevented betting on golf, tennis, NASCAR and much more, plus betting on all props.

The Bad: What It Got Wrong

We can’t hammer it home enough. The mandatory 10% hold is unfair to bettors, and will prevent the state from generating serious revenue because bettors will return to illegal markets. You’ll be betting almost everything at -120 or worse.

Research firm Eilers & Krejcik projected that a 15% hold proposed initially would cut the number of operators in half, and cost the state more than $10M per year in tax revenue. It also detailed how France, which has a similar minimum hold to Tennessee, has failed to generate “meaningful consumer participation” and revenue.

The high barrier to entry for operators ($750,000 yearly fee, 20% tax rate) will prevent many from even entering the market because they can’t recoup the cost.

Lastly, the requirement for operators to buy official league data to provide live betting is a disappointment. The leagues have been pushing for this as new states come online, and they got to Tennessee.

 

Tennessee Sports Betting Timeline

November 2018: Rep. Rick Staples introduced a bill to legalize sports betting, though the eventual bill that passed looks much different than his first version.

April 2019: The bill made it through the state Senate easily, but narrowly cleared a House committee.

June 2019: Governor Bill Lee, who is opposed to legal sports betting, allows the bill to pass into law without his signature.

Feb. 2020: Tennessee puts forth potential regulations that frighten the entire industry, including a 15% hold, no bets on events that can be influenced by one person (like golf or tennis), and no betting from 3-10 p.m. on Sundays or on holidays.

April 2020: Tennessee finalizes regulations for online sports betting, including the mandatory 10% hold and requirement for operators to buy official league data to offer live betting. But it skips many of the other restrictions that could have doomed the market.

July 2020 (projected): Sports betting goes live in Tennessee.

 

Tennessee Sports Betting Tips

Sports Betting for TN Beginners

New to sports betting? Check out our 11 sports betting tips for beginners so you can get started in Tennessee, whether you want to bet on the Tennessee Titans or Nashville Predators.

Sports Betting Glossary

The sports betting lexicon is vast and sometimes confusing, especially to new bettors. Check out our sports betting glossary to get up to speed with every term you might need to know.

Sports Betting Mistakes to Avoid

Betting on your favorite teams like the Tennessee Titans or Memphis Grizzlies might seem like a no-brainer, but you need to be careful if you’re going to sustain in the sports betting world. Here are nine mistakes to avoid.

 

How to Place a Sports Bet in Tennessee

Once Tennessee sports betting goes live, you’ll want to jump into the fray right away. Here’s how to do it in a legal state.

1) Choose a Sportsbook

You’ll want to have accounts at multiple sportsbooks to get the best price on every game, but you have to start with one.  Let’s start with DraftKings. Click the link to get started, and you’ll automatically get a $1,000 sign-up bonus.

2) Sign Up

Fill out all the required fields. DraftKings might ask you for a driver’s license or social security number to verify your identity.

3) Deposit

DraftKings will take you right to the deposit screen once you’ve put in your information. Select your payment method, then click deposit.

DraftKings Deposit

Our preference is direct deposit via a bank account — that way when you cash out, the money will go right to your checking account instead of being credited back to a card.

4) Place a Bet

DraftKings has a strong mobile experience and user-friendly betting slip. Here’s how to place your first bet.

  • Navigate to sport
  • Click the line you want to bet
  • Head to your bet slip
  • Enter your bet amount
  • Submit

Congrats! You’ve just placed your first sports bet (now go track it in The Action Network app). 

 

Tennessee is one of the few states in the United States without any casinos, so you won’t be able to bet in person. Only online.

The closest thing to an in-person sportsbook will be a sports bar with your phone. Not a bad combination. Nashville Guru put together a list of the best sports bars in Nashville and around the state, including:

Double Dog’s

  • Address: Four TN Locations
  • Website

Double Dog’s has locations in Hillsboro Village and Sylvan Heights, and another two in Knoxville. It features plenty of TVs, and each table has an individual audio selector so you can listen to the sound on any game you want.

Beyond the Edge

  • Address: 112 S. 11th Street, Nashville, TN 37206
  • Phone: 615-226-3343
  • Website

This East Nashville spot has 25 TVs and more than 125 beers on tap. It’s about 1.5 miles from Nissan Stadium, home of the Tennessee Titans.

Acme Feed and Seed

  • Address: 101 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37201
  • Phone: 615-915-0888
  • Website

Looking to watch sports and bet on Broadway, the biggest tourist attraction in Nashville? The second floor of Acme Feed and Seed has plenty of TVs. Acme is on the corner of Broadway and 1st Avenue, right across the Cumberland River from Nissan Stadium.

Tennessee Teams to Bet on

Tennessee has a wealth of professional and college sports teams.

Division I Football & Basketball

  • Tennessee Volunteers
  • Memphis Tigers
  • Vanderbilt Commodores
  • Middle Tennessee State

Division I Basketball Only

  • Austin Peay
  • Belmont
  • Chattanooga
  • Lipscomb
  • East Tennessee State
  • Tennessee State
  • Tennessee Tech
  • UT Martin

Pro Sports Teams 

  • Memphis Grizzlies
  • Nashville Predators
  • Tennessee Titans
  • Nashville SC

Nashville has three teams in the immediate downtown area — the Tennessee Titans and MLS’s Nashville SC play at Nissan Stadium across the Cumberland River from Broadway, and the NHL’s Nashville Predators play downtown at Bridgestone Arena.

Other Events

  • NASCAR’s Bristol Motor Speedway
  • SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament

Bristol Motor Speedway hosts the Food City 500 each yet. Bristol is in the northeastern tip of Tennessee, about 300 miles from Nashville.

Bridgestone Arena will host the SEC Tournament each year through 2030 except 2022, when it heads to Amalie Arena in Tampa. Bridgestone and Nashville have the facilities and capacity to host even more marquee events. 

More Reading on Tennessee 

Official Sports Betting Documentation:

Local coverage & Opinions

Data-Driven analysis of Tennessee’s Approach to Sports Betting

 

 

Is Online Sports Betting Legal in Tennessee?

Yes, online sports gambling is now legal in Tennessee. We’re just waiting on operators to begin offering a sports betting product. Once operational, bettors will need to be inside state borders to place bets.

Can I Use DraftKings Sportsbook in Tennessee?

Bettors can’t use DraftKings Sportsbook yet in Tennessee but expect it to be among the first players in the state when betting is live in Q3 or 2020.

Is Bovada Legal In Tennessee?

Bovada is not legal in Tennessee, and won’t be necessary for sports bettors in the Volunteer State soon, since it’s an illegal offshore sportsbook that isn’t regulated by any governing body.

How Old Do I Have to Be to Bet?

You must be 21 years old to bet on sports in Tennessee, and can’t be associated with a professional or college sports team in any way.

Where Can I Bet on Sports in Tennessee?

Anywhere, as long as you’re inside the state border and have an Internet connection.

Who Can Apply for a Tennessee Sports Betting License?

Anyone willing to pay the $750,000 per-year licensing fee can apply. There is no limit on licenses in the state.

Are Any Sports Off Limits?

You can’t live bet on college football and college basketball, nor college player props, but that’s the extent of the limitations relative to other legal U.S. markets. So while you can bet on a Tennessee Volunteers point spread before a game, you can’t bet on them live, or on player props.

 

Is Online sports betting legal in Tennessee?

Yes, online sports gambling is now legal in Tennessee. We’re just waiting on operators to begin offering a sports betting product. Once operational, bettors will need to be inside state borders to place bets.

Can I use DraftKings Sportsbook in Tennessee?

Bettors can’t use DraftKings Sportsbook yet in Tennessee, but expect it to be among the first players in the state when betting is live in Q3 or 2020.

Is Bovada legal In Tennessee?

Bovada is not legal in Tennessee, and won’t be necessary for sports bettors in the Volunteer State soon, since it’s an illegal offshore sportsbook that isn’t regulated by any governing body.

How old do I have to be to bet?

You must be 21 years old to bet on sports in Tennessee, and can’t be associated with a professional or college sports team in any way.

Where can I bet on sports in Tennessee?

Anywhere, as long as you’re inside the state border and have an Internet connection.

Who can apply for a Tennessee sports betting license?

Anyone willing to pay the $750,000 per-year licensing fee can apply. There is no limit on licenses in the state.

Are any sports off limits?

You can’t live bet on college football and college basketball, nor college player props, but that’s the extent of the limitations relative to other legal U.S. markets. So while you can bet on a Tennessee Volunteers point spread before a game, you can’t bet on them live, or on player props.