If all goes as planned, when the Tennessee Titans kick off against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, Tennesseans will be able to place mobile sports bets on one of four live digital platforms. Sixteen months after sports wagering became legal in the Volunteer State, the Tennessee Education Lottery (TEL) will launch BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel, and Tennessee Action 24/7 on an NFL Sunday, according to multiple operators.
Tennessee was the first state to legalize digital-only sports betting when it did so on July 1, 2019. The state has no casino or gaming industry outside of a traditional lottery, and now online sports betting. The TEL approved sports betting regulations in April, becoming the first and only state regulator to impose a “payout cap,” which requires operators it hold at least 10% of handle (or pay out no more than 90% to patrons) — intended as a mechanism to generate more tax revenue for the state.
“We continue to work with all licensees and registrants to be ready by Nov. 1 as we establish and support a responsible and competitive sports wagering program in Tennessee,” a lottery spokesman said.
All four licensed operators will offer special promotions to Tennessee sports bettors.
Local guys and big boys
Of the four operators approved for launch, only Acton Tennessee 24/7 is not operating in other states. The platform is owned by Tina Hodges, a Tennessee businesswoman who also owns a payday loan company. Action Tennessee 24/7 will focus on being the local choice, and being able to tailor offerings not just Tennessee-wide but to specific regions of the state.
At a free-to-play site that will be transitioning to live sports betting, potential bettors can sign up for updates on sports betting at Action Tennessee 24/7 ahead of launch. The site is offering a $51 free bet and free bet bonuses ranging from $5-$125.
“Action 24/7 is proud to be the only Tennessee-owned and operated sportsbook in the starting lineup this Sunday,” Hodges told Sports Handle. “We can’t wait to serve our neighbors across the state with the world-class sports gambling experience they deserve.”
“We’re not adding another state to our portfolio,” Hodges told TN Bets earlier this month. “This is our state. All of our employees live here, 90% of our investors live here, everyone every step of the way has wanted to help out.”
Sports betting is coming to Tennessee on November 1, and we're your ONLY legal, local sportsbook.
(You already know we're from Tennessee, so we don't have to have a picture of the state in our ad. 😉)
— Action 247 (@TNAction247) October 23, 2020
Lottery moving forward fast in last few months
The Tennessee Lottery has been moving quickly toward a launch date since bringing in new Vice President of Sports Gaming Operations Danielle Boyd in July. Operators, many of whom were previously frustrated by slow movement in Tennessee, have seen the timetable speed up and communication smooth out. The end result is that the Lottery in August promised to launch at least some operators by Nov. 1, and BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel, and Action Tennessee 24/7 were all able to get their applications — and those of their suppliers and vendors — approved by late October.
Last week in its final meeting before launch, the Lottery approved a massive list of vendors, including payment-processing companies and affiliates (including Better Collective Tennessee, which owns this website).
An additional three operators have started the application process, but the lottery declined to release their names. TN Bets reported that in response to a Freedom of Information request to the TEL, the agency disclosed that Churchill Downs, William Hill, and Wynn have all filed applications. Under the new law, there is no limit on the number of new digital platforms that can operate in the state.
Easiest bet you will make on this opening weekend of sports betting in Tennessee….
— Rick Merritt (@R1ckterScale) October 27, 2020
Colorado is the only other state that launched its operators as a group when it did so on May 1. The difference for Colorado regulators and operators was that few sports were even being played at the height of pandemic restrictions, meaning all had a chance to work out any kinks without pressure.
On Sunday, the NFL will have a full slate of games, the PGA’s Bermuda Classic will be in its final day, finals are set for ATP events in Switzerland and Kazakhstan, and there are myriad international sporting events on the calendar. Operators say they’re ready to go, but as for any business, opening operations on the busiest day of the week is less than ideal.