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Gambling in Tennessee

Tennessee isn’t a gambling-friendly state. The local politicians are very skeptical about allowing tribal or commercial casinos to offer their services to Tennessee residents and even pari-mutuel betting is banned within the borders of the state. Social gambling and charity gambling regulations are also unreasonably strict, which leaves the state-controlled lottery as the only regulated gambling option available to local real money gaming enthusiasts. As you’ve probably already guessed, Tennessee-based companies aren’t allowed to operate any iGaming sites.

Casinos in Tennessee

Tennessee (TN) has some of the most restrictive gambling laws in the country and does not have any operating casinos. There are casinos in neighboring states, such as North Carolina, Mississippi, and Missouri, which has some Tennesseans wanting to bring that revenue home. A bill has been proposed that would change the constitution and allow state lawmakers to make casinos legal.

There are, however, some financial issues with the casinos across the river from Memphis, and many voters think that importing those problems within state borders is the wrong way to go.

Whatever course of action the state eventually takes, expect any acceptance of casinos and future growth of casino gaming to take a long time.

Tennessee Sportsbooks & Sports Betting

Sports betting is illegal in Tennessee, and even though lawmakers have openly spoken about the need to look into it as an option, the hurdles of the state constitution and conservative voters mean that any effort to legalize sports gambling will be a slow process.

One thing that might tip the scales in favor of legalization is the likelihood that Mississippi’s casinos, located just 20 miles across the river, will offer sports gambling. If enough bets are placed there, the push to bring those bets back to TN will be strong.

Fantasy Sports Gambling and eSports

In 2016, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery said that all pay-for-prize fantasy sports are illegal in TN. Despite this, and the state’s general hard stance against gambling, the legislature passed The Fantasy Sports Act later that year. The law made all daily fantasy sports (DFS) leagues legal and regulated by the state.

While a number of states charge large licensing fees for operators, which tends to favor the bigger DFS companies, TN’s law requires a 6% tax on revenue (player fees – player payouts). That makes it a much friendlier state to smaller players in the industry.

Tennessee’s DFS regulations are as follows:

  • All players must be at least 18 years old.
  • There is a $2,500 limit on monthly player deposits per DFS operator.
  • Contests on amateur and college athletics are prohibited.
  • Employees of DFS companies are prohibited from playing any contest with a prize greater than $5.

There are no laws regulating eSports betting. As of today, TN treats it like all sports betting, so it is illegal.

Animal Racing

Its neighbor to the north is the jewel of American horse racing, but for all Kentucky has to offer when it comes to the Sport of Kings, Tennessee is lacking. There are no race tracks to watch live horse racing in TN, and pari-mutuel wagering hasn’t been legal since the early 1900s.

Horse racing is not illegal. There is harness racing at the Lincoln County Fair each September, and Nashville hosts the Iroquois Steeplechase each May, but gambling on those races is illegal.

There are no off-track betting sites in the state, as all pari-mutuel wagering is illegal. There is also no greyhound racing in Tennessee.

Tennessee Poker Games

One of the biggest names in the resurgence of poker in the last 15 years is that of Chris Moneymaker, who went from amateur player to winner of the World Series of Poker seemingly overnight.

The Tennessee native’s impact on the world of poker has not carried the same weight back in his home state. Poker is illegal and looks to remain that way, so there are no live poker rooms anywhere in the state. Online poker is also illegal.

Lottery

One of the very few forms of gambling that Tennessee embraces is the state lottery, although they were late to adopt one when compared to other states. The state didn’t sell its first lottery ticket until 2004, after amending the state constitution in 2002 to allow the change. Along with scratch-off games, the following draw games are available:

  • Cash 3
  • Cash 4
  • KENO To Go
  • Tennessee Cash
  • Lotto America (multistate)
  • Cash 4 Life (multistate)
  • Mega Millions (multistate)
  • Powerball (multistate)

All TN lottery tickets must be purchased in person at one of the 5,000 authorized retailers. All tickets must be purchased with cash. All players must be at least 18 years old.

Bingo

Bingo is not allowed in Tennessee, even for nonprofit, civic, or religious organizations.

The state does have charitable gaming laws, but those only allow for raffles and cakewalks, where the prize is an actual cake.

And it’s no cakewalk to get a charitable gaming license, even if you are a valid 501(c)(3). You must apply to the General Assembly and get approved by two-thirds of its members. If you are approved, you are allowed to hold no more than one event per year.