The smell of pigskin, lighter fluid, and fall is in the air in Tennessee.
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our everyday lives, weekends filled with college and professional football in Tennessee have brought us back to some sense of normalcy. And Tennesseans are buzzing with excitement regarding the news about sports gambling – which I worked extensively on – being on the goalline.
During the 2019 legislative session, I sponsored and passed legislation to allow Tennessee to join 18 other states with a legalized, online sports gambling program. The first four licenses to provide a service for online sports betting have recently been granted, and Tennesseans can expect to be able to participate in this activity in the near future.
While some may make the argument that we should actively oppose gambling, I have a different view. Sports betting has and will continue to occur in our state, regardless of where the government stands on the matter.
The law making online sports betting legal in Tennessee, which passed in July of 2019, recognizes the reality that residents are already participating in this activity and takes steps to bring the practice into the open. With the protections laid out in the bill, sports wagering can be regulated, those who struggle with an addiction to gambling can get the assistance they need and the potential for criminal activity is minimized.
As we’ve seen in our successful state lottery, we can provide safe and legal gaming for our state’s residents, while generating revenue for Tennessee. The authors and sponsors for this bill, of which I am a part of, have built multiple guardrails into the law that will bring online sports gambling to our state in a safe manner.
One example of these guardrails is a provision prohibiting anyone under the age of 21 to be able to participate. Nor will anyone who takes part in a sport (athletes, coaches, trainers, etc.) will be allowed to participate in the betting process, including any company or person who owns more than 5 percent of any professional, collegiate or Olympic sports team.
In order to participate, bettors must be of legal age and be located in the state of Tennessee when the bet is placed.
In addition to these safeguards, we have put into place a provision in the law that a specified amount of revenue generated from sports gambling must go towards treatment programs across the state that focus on gambling addiction and rehabilitation.
Allowing residents in our state to participate in online sports betting will yield several benefits for Tennessee.
Now more than ever, every dollar counts in the road to recovery from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sports betting will generate an estimated $50 million in new revenue for our state. This new funding will help provide relief for local businesses and families in our communities, and could even go toward repairing our infrastructure which is badly needed.
Additionally, each of the other 18 states with legalized sports betting have brick and mortar gambling venues. Tennessee is unique in that our state has no in-person casinos or betting parlors, but will offer sports betting to residents completely online. Residents can place wagers and go through the entire betting process online and through their phone or digital device.
With the launch of this program, which is unlike any other in the country, Tennessee will yet again lead the nation in innovation.
This policy is one more example of where I try to put people, and common sense, before politics.