The Tennessee Education Lottery now has seven applications from companies to operate mobile sports betting platforms in the state, and on Monday it approved a fourth to potentially go live on Nov. 1. Tennessee Action 24/7, a local company based in Nashville, got its conditional approval, bringing the total number of operators with conditional approval to four.
The TEL expects to launch sports betting on Nov. 1, and so far, BetMGM, DraftKings, and FanDuel appear comfortably on their way to getting go-live approval ahead of that date. All three got conditional approval last month. For Tennessee Action 24/7, key supplier Amelco submitted its application on Sept. 23. It has not yet been approved, pending criminal background checks. TEL staff said it takes up to six weeks to complete criminal background checks, and that date would be Nov. 4. Amelco provides platforms for sports betting operators throughout the U.S., including in Indiana, Colorado, and New Jersey.
The TEL seemed to caution that if the background checks are not received by Nov. 1, then Tennessee Action 24/7 would not be permitted to go live on that date. The company’s other suppliers, including Sportradar, have been approved. Tennessee Action 24/7 is a bit of a special case for the TEL in that it is a new company and does not operate in other U.S. jurisdictions.
Bet menu discussed, but not approved
The TEL has not released the names of three other sports betting operators that have filed applications, but President and CEO Rebecca Hargrove said the seventh application was received last Friday. It’s unlikely that the TEL will have time to vet any of those applications and award conditional approvals ahead of the Nov. 1 date. Nov. 1 is an NFL Sunday.
Good idea for sports betting apps in a state to become first available for download and play on an NFL Sunday?
— Brian Pempus (@brianpempus) September 24, 2020
Besides approving applications, the TEL staff brought some potential rules clarifications to the board, including a menu of betting options. While the staff says events like the Academy Awards would not be allowed per the new law, it did include examples of allowed bets and leagues that could be bet on, and it shared examples of in-game prop bets vs. more traditional props. It will not be legal to place in-game prop bets on college sports in Tennessee. Board members did not approve a bet menu, and staff will continue to revise that with the idea of getting approval at the Oct. 16 meeting.
The board did approve betting on “seasonal” awards, such as the Heisman Trophy, and wagering on pro sports’ drafts, with an eye toward having staff provide more specific language on each, likely at the Oct. 16 meeting.
The TEL approved multiple suppliers, including Sportradar, which will handle risk management for Tennessee Action 24/7, IGT, Online Ventures Strategies LLC (Yahoo! Sports), GLI, and Kambi. It also approved six vendors.
Letters from law enforcement tough to get
At the start of the meeting, Hargrove asked Lottery staff to review open items from the previous meeting that related to the conditional licenses awarded to BetMGM, DraftKings, and FanDuel. Lottery staff have received letters of reference from many states in which the comparies already operate, including Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa. However, the law also requires letters of reference from law enforcement in jurisdictions in which an operator is doing business.
— Sports Handle (@sports_handle) September 29, 2020
According to staff, most states did not reply, but the Chicago Police Department replied saying it could not provide a letter because the TEL is not a fellow law enforcement agency. Much discussion followed about how the Lottery would meet this requirement, and it was determined that because the Lottery is running fingerprints through the FBI, that could suffice.
Sports betting became law in Tennessee on July 1, 2019, when Gov. Bill Lee allowed a bill approved by the state legislature to become law without his signature. The new law allows for mobile/online sports betting only and there is no cap on the number of operators that can be licensed. Operators must pay a $750,000 application fee and the Lottery has imposed a 90% payout cap on operators.