Gambling in Tennessee

State nicknames are often unexplained, but here in Tennessee they possess the nickname of The Volunteer State. The meaning behind the name comes from the amount of volunteers that were involved in The War of 1812.

Tennessee is home to over six million residents and is more populated than most of the nation, coming in at 17th in terms of rank for population. There are 42,000 square miles in total of land. Gamblers in Tennessee won’t have too many options for game play, but they will have an option that will suit the needs of just about any player, the lottery, available since 2003.

Types of Gambling Found in Tennessee

Tennessee doesn’t have any land-based casinos nor does it have any kind if pari-mutuel betting. Of course, along with 36 other states it does have a lottery which has many different games. Players who are 18 and over will have Powerball, Mega Millions and other gaming choices as well as scratchers to choose from when it comes to supporting the public schools by playing the lottery. Charity Bingo is available for players over 18 as well.

Even if it is a rather conservative state in what concerns gambling, apart from the lottery it still offers Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS), being only the third state to legalize and regulate DFS, after Indiana and Virginia. As many things related with gambling, also this law is somewhat controversial, as Tennessee attorney general consider it to be illegal, according to his interpretation of the law.

Either cases, DFS is legal and up and running in Tennessee since 2016. There is no licensing fee and there are and only six percent taxes, so it’s an appealing framework for any operator. Among the existing DFS games we find Fanduel, Fantasy Draft and DraftKings. These are season long sports contest, and the fact that DraftKings has recently celebrated one million bets say a lot about the popularity of the game.

Casinos and racetracks might be on the way

As already mentioned above, Tennessee doesn’t have any casino or racetracks, something that might be changing soon due to a new bill proposed by five state representatives: the HJR 0109 or House Joint Resolution 109.

This bill has the single purpose to legalize casinos and other games of chance in the state, and it doesn’t indicate a framework or locations for the casinos, seeming to be, for this reason, a pretty liberal proposal. This has also been happening in other states, those willing to push gambling forward.

Tennessee has several casinos a short drive away from their borders, namely Mississippi, Harrah’s Cherokee or Tunica, and seeing all the state citizens speding money outside the state to play on those casinos has certainly played a role determining the debate and eventual approval of casinos on Tennessee.

The path ahead: pros and cons

There is a strong connection between tourism and gambling, and tourism in Tennessee is growing fast, having generated $20 billion in 2017, which means close to $2 billion in taxes for the state. Nashville and Memphis are Tennessee’s biggest cities and are seen as music destinations thanks to Elvis Presley and Dolly Parton, but the Smoky Mountains also attract people to the state.

Nashville is not only the most populated city, but also the city that attracts more tourists, and the closest casino to the city is two states away, a two hour drive to Illinois to the Metropolis casino. This new legislation on gambling and casinos being developed has precisely in mind boosting tourism in the region, but there are also some concerns.

Nashville, for example, is just one hour away from Tunica, MS, but the local casino there, Harrah’s Casino, closed in 2014, most likely due to the high poverty rate in the region. Casinos are not attracting as much money as before, and even the structure of the tax revenue is no longer directing enough money forward the local social programs.