In a series of meetings that ran three-plus hours on Friday, regulators in Tennessee made language changes to sports betting rules, approved a betting menu, smoothed out language surrounding collegiate sports wagering, and said they’re still aiming for Nov. 1 to launch at least three operators — if not sooner. The Tennessee Education Lottery Sports Wagering Committee had targeted Nov. 1 as its initial sports betting go-live date, but that is an NFL Sunday — generally the busiest betting day of any week — and could prove tricky for both regulators and operators in a new environment.
Lottery CEO Rebecca Hargrove suggested that the Lottery could launch BetMGM, DraftKings, and FanDuel a few days earlier, “perhaps for a couple of hours,” to avoid an NFL Sunday launch. The goal would be to get the kinks out ahead of a full slate of NFL games. It also seems a good plan to have operators go live during a weekday, as college football Saturdays are also incredibly busy for operators.
The Tennessee Titans are currently scheduled to play at Cincinnati on Nov. 1, after the schedule was reshuffled due to a COVID-19 breakout at the team’s facility earlier this season.
Tennessee Action 24/7 launch could be delayed
However the date plays out, the Lottery is furiously moving forward to smooth out details and be ready. While four operators were awarded conditional licenses — BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel, and Tennessee Action 24/7 — it’s looking like Tennessee Action 24/7 won’t launch with the bunch, because supplier Amelco has not yet been licensed. The company submitted its application Sept. 23 to the TEL, which says it takes up to six weeks to receive the necessary background checks, which would be after the Nov. 1 date. Should regulators launch the other three together, Tennessee Action 24/7 would likely go live within days, as soon as the TEL can issue a license or conditional approval. Three other operators have submitted applications, but the TEL has not identified them.
Sports betting became legal in Tennessee on July 1, 2019, when Gov. Bill Lee let the time period to sign legislation expire without his signature. It hasn’t been a smooth path over the last 16 months, as the TEL has struggled to develop an infrastructure to manage sports betting in a state with no casino gaming history.
Brief snapshot of the timeline for TN sports betting:
Since sports betting bill was filed: 723 days
Since bill became effective: 487 days
Since regulations were adopted: 198 days
— Brian Pempus (@brianpempus) October 16, 2020
The Sports Wagering Advisory Council spent nearly two hours discussing proposed changes to the rules, most of which just required massaging the language to have the TEL’s rules match up with Tennessee’s sports betting law. The council didn’t approve any changes, which fell to the Board of Directors’ Sports Wagering Committee. Changes were made to the definitions of suppliers and vendors and insurance requirements, among other issues. The item that required the most amount of discussion and interpretation deals with collegiate prop bets.
TEL working on clarity on college prop-bet rule
Tennessee’s sports betting law prohibits prop bets on collegiate events, but the council and committee spent considerable time trying to interpret exactly what that means. Is the intent for college prop bets to be allowed before a game starts? Or would prop bets be allowed after the game starts? The only issue the committees and staff agreed on is that college prop bets involving individuals should definitely be banned in any circumstance.
TEL Sports Betting Vice President Danielle Boyd recommended that the board completely ban betting on individual achievements and anything in-game, while “at least allowing for the submission or review” of prop wagers ahead of a game or match.
Language was batted around at the meeting, but the board approved clarifying the language without settling on what that language will be.
A bet menu circulated among both advisory council and betting committee members was approved by the committee. Operators need the menu, or catalogue, in order to be able to load available bets onto their platforms — and to be able to petition the TEL to add events that they may want to offer wagering on that are not on the menu. In most states, the betting catalogue is an evolving document. It’s not unusual — especially at the start of legal sports betting — for operators to request additions or changes to the catalogue.
Operators are eager to move forward, and both DraftKings and FanDuel announced Tennessee-specific promotions and promises to be live in Tennessee “very soon.”