Is Sports Betting Legal in Tennessee?

Update: Democratic Congressman Rick Staples has pre-filed a bill in Tennessee which, if approved, would legalize sports gambling in the state in 2019.   The bill, HB 0001, would lay the ground work for the establishment of the Tennessee Gaming Commission to regulate sports betting. If passed, HB 0001 will give the Tennessee Gaming Commission the power to work with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation in order to enforce gaming related regulations.  Read More

Tennessee is one of the states that doesn’t have casinos, but sports betting is on the minds of legislators and bipartisan bills are being discussed. Tennessee has a lottery that gives significant funding for education and the plan may be to set up a similar framework from the sports betting revenues. But, things still have a long way to go in the Volunteer State.

The Fantasy Sports Act in 2016 legalized playing fantasy sports, but did feature provisions specifically tailored to keep sports betting illegal in the state. The strike down of PASPA on May 14, 2018 by the US Supreme Court took away the national ban, but left states to decide for themselves whether or not they wanted legalized sports wagering within their borders. In that Fantasy Sports Act, Tennessee outlawed contests that had point spreads, so any sort of against the spread pool was still verboten.

Interestingly, though, betting has been on the minds of legislators for a little while as a way to fire up the horse racing industry in Tennessee. Per the Tennessean back in 2016, the plan for legislation, titled Senate Bill 1738, passed easily in the Senate, but faced opposition in the House and narrowly got by. It is rather unbelievable to think that horse racing is so big one state north, but has been prohibited in Tennessee since 1905.

Tennessee doesn’t have casinos and doesn’t offer horse wagering, so there may be two bigger issues to tackle before sports betting actually hits the floor. On the other hand, if it is to be run through the lottery with funding for education, it will be tough for representatives to say no. That may take a while because a lot of infrastructure needs to be put into place before implementation can occur.

Recent News Stories About Sports Betting

As it turns out, there is a lot of grey area when it comes to gambling legislation in Tennessee. Dave Boucher of The Tennessean published an overview the day that PASPA was struck out and included the outlook for legalized sports betting.

Legislation has been introduced by State Representative Brian Kelsey that would directly benefit education, much like the current lottery setup. Abigail Warren of the Commercial Appeal wrote up this piece with links and quotes regarding Kelsey’s plan.

Rebecca Hargrove, the CEO of the Tennessee Lottery, voiced her support for sports betting in this piece from back in May.

In a piece for Gridiron Now, Tyler Wyatt talked about the push for legal sports betting in SEC states, including his home state of Tennessee.

A gubernatorial race in Tennessee is coming this November and the Republican candidates were asked about sports betting in a recent debate. WKNO FM has the story and the answers to the pressing questions in the Volunteer State.



Tennessee probably won’t move all that quickly in the sports betting arena, but the state has been looking for some alternative revenue sources to help fund education and has had legitimate talks for expanded gaming, especially with horse tracks. As long as the discourse is open and active, sports betting has a chance. It looks like sports betting may have a pretty good chance. Once again, expecting something by maybe 2020 could be a little bit optimistic, but Tennessee should be another domino to fall over the next five years.


Neighboring States






North Carolina

South Carolina