Tennessee Sports Regulator to Change

The governor of the US state of Tennessee Bill Lee has signed a piece of legislation which will transfer sports wagering regulatory powers over from the Tennessee Education Lottery (TEL) to the Sports Wagering Advisory Council. Senate Bill 588 passed the state’s House by 73 to 13 during a vote in May.

The Great Smoky Mountains in the state of Tennessee during sunrise.

Sports wagering regulatory powers will be transferred over from the Tennessee Education Lottery (TEL) to the Sports Wagering Advisory Council in Tennessee, following the signing of a bill by Governor Bill Lee. ©12019/Pixabay

Sports Wagering Advisory Council Will Not Take Over Until January 2022

The regulation of sports betting and wagering in the US state of Tennessee is about to change hands, following the passing of a bill which was subsequently signed into law by Governor Bill Lee. 

The piece of legislation will shift sports wagering regulatory powers away from current regulator the Tennessee Education Lottery (TEL) over to the Sports Wagering Advisory Council.

Initially introduced in February 2021 by Senator Edward Jackson, Senate Bill 588 enjoyed widespread support in the Tennessee House, passing by a vote of 73 to 13 in May 2021. Later in May, it went onto secure its final approval in the State Senate with a landslide 27 to 0 vote in favor of the legislation.

Once Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed off on the bill towards the end of May 2021, the way was paved for the nine-member Sports Wagering Advisory Council to take control of regulating the state’s nascent (and flourishing) sports betting market.

However, it is worth noting that the Sports Wagering Advisory Council will not technically take over regulatory duties for sports wagering in Tennessee until January 1st, 2022. Nevertheless, the Council still plans to meet regularly in the meantime, with the Tennessee Education Lottery (TEL) continuing to advise the Council as part of a transitional period.

The Sports Wagering Advisory Council’s first meeting of this kind in fact took place just recently, on June 1st, 2021. In it, the Council and the Tennessee Education Lottery (TEL) mostly focused on the issue of finding and appointing a new executive director to lead the Council, as it prepares to overtake sports betting regulation early next year.

Sports Betting Launched in Tennessee in November 2020

Like in numerous other US states, sports betting has only been fully legal in Tennessee for a couple of months now — since November 1st, 2020, to be exact. Several prominent sports betting operators, FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM, helped kick off legal sports wagering in the state, with players wagering a whopping $27.4 million in only the first seven days of legal mobile gaming.

The Tennessee Education Lottery (TEL), which acted as the market’s regulator at the time, revealed that sports betting operators may accept bets from Tennessee players aged 21 and up and who also must be located in the state.

Ahead of the legal market’s launch on Sunday, November 1st, 2020, Tennessee Education Lottery (TEL) chief executive Rebecca Paul Hargrove commemorated the momentous occasion for the state:

“This Sunday will represent the culmination of an enormous amount of work and due diligence to bring online-only sports wagering to Tennessee, the only state in the nation to do so. As the regulator, today also represents the beginning of a new stage as we establish and support a responsible and competitive program here.”Rebecca Paul Hargrove, Chief Executive, Tennessee Education Lottery (TEL)

Hargrove reaffirmed the Lottery’s commitment to working with all necessary parties to protect Tennessee players:

“We will continue to work with all licensees, registrants and applicants to protect the consumer, promote fairness in sports and regulate this new Tennessee industry that provides critical funds to the state and local governments.”

Popular operators DraftKings and FanDuel both announced that they would use the occasion to launch their respective online sportsbooks in Tennessee on November 1st, enabling players to already bet on that day’s offering of NFL games.

Tennessee Sportsbook License Suspended in March 2021

While the precise reasons for the transfer of regulatory powers away from the Tennessee Education Lottery (TEL) over to the Sports Wagering Advisory Council are as of yet unclear, state regulators were successful in weeding out suspicious betting activity on behalf of a Tennessee sportsbook in March 2021 — and in the end even choosing to indefinitely suspend its license.

In early March, the sportsbook Tennessee Action 24/7 discovered incidents of credit card fraud and other suspicious activity on its website during Super Bowl Sunday, which took place in early February 2021. Curiously enough, it took the sportsbook officials until March 17th, well over a week after the initial discovery, to notify the regulator of the potential money laundering and fraud.

As a result of the multiple incidents of fraud and money laundering, which were in violation of the US Wire Act, Tennessee’s gambling regulatory body — known at the time as the Tennessee Education Lottery’s Sports Advisory Council — made the decision to indefinitely revoke Tennessee Action 24/7’s license until the sportsbook improved its ID verification technology.

WynnBET Makes Inroads in Tennessee

The arena of active sports betting operators in Tennessee continues to expand, with online gambling provider WynnBET entering the state’s recently legalized gambling market and partnering with local NBA team the Memphis Grizzlies.

WynnBET is greatly expanding its reach across the sports betting market, having previously only provided its mobile offerings in Colorado and New Jersey. Though details are still somewhat up in the air, the provider revealed it would soon be launching in Michigan as well, while also pursuing licensing in an additional 12 states, eventually reaching 19 US states overall.

The decision to grant WynnBET a conditional license to commence offering sports betting in the state was made by the Sports Wagering Committee, which was at the time still part of Tennessee’s Education Lottery Corporation’s Board of Directors.

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