• Tennessee has introduced over a half-dozen sports betting bills with only limited advancement.
  • Governor Bill Lee has advocated against legalizing sports betting but may be changing his mind.
  • HB0001 will be discussed on Tuesday in the House’s State Committee at 10:30 am.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Slated to be discussed on Tuesday in the House State Committee, Tennessee House Bill 0001 continues to make slight advancements.

This comes with Governor Bill Lee still remaining in limbo about the future of sports betting in Tennessee.

In the October 2018 Tennessee Governor Debate, Lee made it clear that he stood strongly against legalized sports betting.

“I would work with the legislature to make sure they didn’t approve it,” said Lee in the gubernatorial debate.

However, now comes a time where the majority of other states have approved or have considered approving regulating the industry to make some extra money from tax contributions. While Governor Lee doesn’t seem to agree that Tennessee should offer sports betting, he seems to be coming on board with his legislators’ actions.

HB0001 calls for a voter referendum on the county level which is the “right direction to go” according to Lee.

Either way, if both chambers of the legislature agree to the wording on the bill, Governor Lee’s actions will be a focal point moving forward. He can veto the bill (which he has not discussed doing), approve the bill, or do nothing with it. The latter two would turn the bill into law.

What Will Be Discussed On Tuesday?

Sponsored by Representative Rick Staples (D- Knoxville), HB0001 will first have to discuss the prohibited or approved action of betting on college sports teams. Currently, the bill’s text permits wagering on all professional and collegiate sporting events, including the ones located with Tennessee.

A few states have developed regulations to inhibit sportsbooks from offering betting lines on the local teams with the hope of keeping the integrity in the game.

Director of Policy Analysis at UT, Josh Warren is a proponent of prohibiting wagering on in-state teams and believes there is also a greater concern – the students. It is important to “be very mindful of the surroundings of a college campus” he told the State Committee last Tuesday. If the students can overhear administrators, players, or coaches speak of potential injuries, campus conduct, or overall health, they could be given insider information.

The committee will also discuss the outlet for offering legal sports betting. Proposed is the idea that an online betting platform will be the method of choice, as the state does not have any casinos or racetracks. Roughly 50 retail locations could be made available statewide for those who are 21 and older.

Warren added that without the proper oversight of a gaming commission, there may need to be more changes made with this bill. It isn’t clear if any of these changes have been made but you can be assured that Staples will be ready.

“We are trying to capture dollars instead of dollars leaving the state,” said Staples.

The committee meets again on Tuesday at 10:30 am and legislators aren’t feeling the pressure to rush this measure.

The 2019 Tennessee session adjourns at the end of April; however, bills can carry over in 2020, as the state hosts biennial sessions.

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