Will Tennessee Legalize Sports Betting?

In a nice break from more serious political dramas, one of the most interesting national court rulings of 2018 has been the Supreme Court’s decision to allow for legalized sports betting. That wording is important, because the Supreme Court didn’t explicitly legalize sports betting across the United States. Rather, they simply voted to break an existing ban on the national level, thereby clearing the way for states to legislate legal sports betting, one by one. Now, the question naturally becomes which states will do just that.

The first places to look are naturally those states that already have betting and casino gaming in various forms. Nevada comes to mind, thanks to the gambling Mecca that is Las Vegas, but it’s actually New Jersey that has more or less led the way. In addition to the Atlantic City casinos, New Jersey has a thriving online casino business, with new websites launching every year and casino offerings always expanding and improving. New Jersey, arguably more than any other state, had the existing framework in place to immediately offer a comprehensive range of sports betting options, both through existing online casinos and via newly launched sportsbook platforms. And, with an economy that has actually been picked up somewhat by online gaming already, New Jersey also had the incentive to legalize sports betting as quickly as possible. For these reasons, sports betting is already up and running in the Garden State.

With New Jersey leading the way, it’s anticipated that a handful of other states (Nevada, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and a few more) will have legislation in place soon. Others, like California, New York, Illinois, and more are known to be open to the idea, but are not as thoroughly prepared to hop aboard the sports betting train just yet. Still other states, however – primarily states in the South and Southeast that are traditionally conservative – appear more reluctant, or at least further from making a decision. This is the camp that Tennessee appears to fall into, though it will be interesting to see if this changes based on a few factors.

One is that Mississippi does have legal casinos just across the state lines, and there’s every possibility folks in Tennessee who are within driving distance will in fact cross into Mississippi to place bets. This is a bit of a boon for Mississippi and could ultimately incentivize Tennessee state lawmakers to consider a change in order to capitalize on the betting economy. Additionally, we’re still learning how sports leagues will react, and colleges in particular seem concerned about how sports betting will affect game integrity. Bearing in mind that Tennessee is SEC country, as well as a state with multiple pro sports teams, these aren’t insignificant concerns. However, this is a ship that appears to be sailing regardless of any team or league’s hesitation, and it could be that in time pressure from these entities against legal sports betting subsides.

For now, there are no indications that sports betting is coming to Tennessee particularly soon. But because of the factors just outlined, this could change in a hurry. Furthermore, as more states follow New Jersey’s lead and take advantage of the May Supreme Court ruling, pressure could mount for a change.

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