Welcome to Tennessee, the Volunteer State, considered to be one of the most restricted states for gambling in the US. It is almost completely barren in the landscape of gambling opportunities. There are no slots, table games, poker whether it be peer to peer or against the dealer. However, you can play (legally and safely) at any offshore online casino. In fact, Tennessee ranks as the 28th highest in the US for playing at offshore online casinos. Wagering an estimated $10 million per year, it ranks just above Kentucky and behind Louisiana. The state with the largest wagering for offshore online casino is California at $180 million.
If you are keen to play slots, table games, poker and the like and a brick and mortar casino, then fortunately in neighboring states you can find plenty of options. Look to travel across to Mississippi or Missouri.
Tennessee Online Gambling
The Tennessee state law regarding online betting is very much similar to other US States in that it is quite vague (in fact, this part of the law is the only aspect that is vague towards gambling in Tennessee). And therefore, gambling online could be deemed neither legal or illegal.
As a consequence offshore online casinos are able to accept US Players from Tennessee. Whilst onshore online casinos do not exist as there is no licensing and regulatory framework.
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Overview of Tennessee Casinos
Unlike many US states, the laws are mostly clear in Tennessee, so much so, that it suppresses and deters any gambling even when there is slight doubt in legality. As such, you won’t find any commercial, tribal or racinos in this state. It is completely devoid of any table casino games, as well as bingo (except some forms for charity), slots, poker. Even the act of social and charitable gaming that does not meet strict rules are prohibited. All funds raised through charitable gaming must be 100% distribute and donated.
The only gambling legally available is limited to below forms of gambling:
- State and regional lottery,
- Horse racing
- Some forms of charitable fund raising, and
- Sports betting
Accordingly, bordering states are benefiting from the strict gambling prohibition law. Residents are crossing the border to neighboring states to play and thus the state is losing significant revenue. The gambling revenue of neighboring states has been estimated to consist of 10% from Tennessee residents.
This would suggest, that if you are looking for opportunities to play, then you will need to travel interstate to find greener pastures. The nearest states with the best opportunities to play at are Mississippi and Missouri.
The state law stipulates that any form of gambling, whether it be a game of skill or a game of luck is deemed to be illegal. Unlike other US States, Tennessee does not differentiate between the two. And therefore there is no debate as to which games constitute games of skill or games of luck. Gambling devices are also strictly prohibited ruling out slot machines, poker tables, other gambling tables and the like.
Charitable fund raising must direct 100% of funds raised to the charitable cause and is limited to raffles and bingo. The law does not differentiate between private, social or commercial gambling. This implies, gambling at home, offices, in private is illegal. However, having this enforced is logistically impossible.
Anyone found breaking the law is charged with a misdemeanor on par with jaywalking. A fine of up to $50 can be applied. A second breach incurs the same charge as the first, with subsequent breaches increasing in the maximum fine and may lead to a charge of felony.
The state lottery is only one of three forms of legal gambling in Tennessee. Indicative of how conservative Tennessee is towards gambling, the state lottery was only made legal in 2002. It became operational in 2004 and was named the Educational Lottery. With limited gambling opportunities, the lottery became instantly popular among residents, and has continued to grow till this day. Over the years, the funds raised from the lottery has not only contributed to education but to other social benefits and public infrastructure.
There are no physical horse racing tracks in Tennessee. Therefore horse racing gambling in Tennessee is limited to placing bet online for horse racing events taking place in surrounding US States.
As previously mentioned, Tennessee is one of the most conservative, and devoid states for gambling, but perhaps strangely, sports betting via online and mobile devices has been made legal from April 2019! This inconsistency with the strong anti casino gambling laws somehow came into legality.
Therefore, we welcome Tennessee to the growing number of US States that has legalized sports betting.
Tennessee, obviously likes to do things different from other US States, and to demonstrate this further, they have confined their sports betting to online – desktop and mobile devices. This means there are no physical terminals or sports betting branches, all sports bets must be placed online. This is the only state that has legislated sports betting in this manner. All US States that have legalized sports betting have first approved physical sport betting terminals first with the prospect of online being developed at a later stage. Tennessee is the only exception.
That’s not to say, that down the track, Tennessee may legalize physical branches and sports betting terminals.
It is anticipated that sports betting will become operational in Tennessee by early 2021, with all the major sport books willing to partake. The purchasing of a license to operate a sports book is open to anyone, and will cost $750,000 per year for each operator. Tax imposed by the regulator is at a flat 25% of all revenue raised.
Sports betting will be governed and regulated by the State Lottery.
Tennessee is one of the most restricted states for gambling, even social gambling is deemed illegal (but in reality logistically difficult to enforce).
Bu surprisingly, Tennessee has opened its doors for sports betting. And even more surprising, has begun with first allowing sports betting via online and on mobile devices contrary to the approach of other US States.
Dare we believe that this change in legislation for sports betting will be the catalyst for liberalizing the gambling laws in Tennessee?
Unfortunately, while we await, residents who do wish to play casino table games, slots and poker tend to cross the border to neighboring states to play.
A Lawyer’s Opinion
Tennessee is a very restrictive state for land-based gamblers but a friendly one for those wishing to get their fix via the Internet with many forms of online gambling being permitted. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-36-101 et seq.; Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-501 et seq.
Sports Betting: Online betting on fantasy and real life sports are both legal in the state of Tennessee with FanDuel, DraftKings and others operating, with the state’s first sports betting mobile application also in the process of launching. In addition, individuals who wish to make online sportsbooks may also do so through platforms operating outside of the state.
Race Betting: Like in many states, horse betting is legal in Tennessee at venues that allow pari-mutuel betting though racetrack betting is not permitted given the lack of racetracks in the state. Online betting is permitted if the wager is made through a licensed domestic platform, including TGV and Twinspire.
Online Gambling: Online gambling, including participation in poker rooms, is not permitted in the state of Tennessee. Thus, individuals wishing to participate in online gambling, including poker and other such games of skill, must place bets online through platforms operating outside of the state.
Online Gaming: Skill and social games are not permitted if played for cash. Thus, individuals who wish to pay games such as Bedazzled must do so through platforms operating outside of the state.
The information in this multi-state research is made available by a licensed, U.S. attorney, and is for informational purposes only. We make no representations that the information is complete or correct in its entirety. It should not be construed as providing specific legal advice, and you acknowledge that no attorney/client relationship exists between us. This brief should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed gambling and entertainment lawyer in your state.