Tennessee Online Gambling Laws

Tennessee Gambling LawsLaws around gambling in Tennessee are among the toughest in the nation and wider gambling options exist outside the state’s borders. Legal betting in Tennessee revolves around state and regional lotteries, limited charitable gambling, and Fantasy Sports are played under the auspices of state law. Tennessee’s stern regulations don’t allow for exceptions. For example, no exception is made for social or home gaming.

For the Volunteer State’s stance on DFS, online casino laws, betting on sports, online gambling etc., see table below

Gambling Type Legal Land-Based Legal Online
Sports Betting No No
Casinos No No
Fantasy Sports (DFS) N/A Yes
eSports No No
Poker No No
Horse Racing Yes Yes
Lottery Yes No
Charitable Gambling Yes No

Tennessee Gambling Tax Rate

There is no tax on gambling winnings in Tennessee.

Large wins may possibly attract additional Federal income taxes.

Gambling age in Tennessee

Gambling Type Age
DFS 18
Horse-Racing 18
Lottery 18
Charitable Gambling 18

Sports Betting Laws in Tennessee

Tennessee’s State Legislators can now legitimately consider the possibility of introducing legal sports betting to the Volunteer State. After the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to pass sports betting laws back to the states in May 2018, Tennessee’s lawmakers are now free to determine their own sports betting fate following the successful court challenge by the state of New Jersey to defy the nationwide Federal sports betting ban.

Sports Betting in Tennessee

Tennessee does not currently offer any legal sports betting options and it may remain that way for the foreseeable future. Tennessee is not the most gambling friendly state of the union. Most forms of gambling are deemed illegal under section 39-17-501 of the Tennessee State Code and state lawmakers will be required to get onboard the sports betting wagon before the state’s gamblers can look forward to enjoying legal sports betting.

No sports betting legalization bills have yet been introduced in Tennessee and the State Legislature’s silence on the topic has been deafening. It’s pertinent to recall that Tennessee is the same state where the Attorney General once announced that fantasy sports would be illegal under the state’s gambling laws. It finally took the State Legislature to bring DFS back to Tennessee under an act of legislation, and it appears that a similar bi-partisan political act will possibly be required to legalize sports betting in Tennessee.

Under Tennessee law, gambling expansion requires a referendum at the ballot box, or an official exemption. However, Tennessee’s voters have approved two such exemptions in the past: one for the lottery and another for horse racing betting. Moreover, the state’s lawmakers bypassed a referendum when they passed DFS legislation in 2016. If Tennessee voters choose a Democratic Governor at the next gubernatorial election, it could go a long way to expediting the introduction of legal sports betting in the state.

For the time being however, residents and visitors of Tennessee can bet 100% legally on horse racing and enjoy playing DFS real money competitions until legal sports betting becomes a reality.

Sports Betting Online

Given the strict anti-gambling laws, it’s hardly surprising that the State of Tennessee does not currently offer legal online sports betting to its visitors or residents.

The U.S. Federal Government have determined that gambling online is legal, however, each state is thereafter required to pass legislation to regulate and license operators under their own state laws.

In all likelihood, Tennessee won’t have legal online sports betting options under the current staunch ultra-conservative Republican government. Once the Democrats again govern the state, the chances of legal sports betting may improve. In a hopeful statistic for sports betting aficionados, it is significant to note that Tennessee voters have not elected consecutive GOP governors since 1869.

Until a new Tennessee State Government can introduce legal sports betting, we recommend the legal online gambling options in the state;

  • Playing online DFS competitions for real money, and;
  • Online betting on horse racing.

Casinos in Tennessee

Neither tribal and commercial venues operate inside Tennessee. In fact, no casinos at all are permitted under the Volunteer State’s strict laws. Many of the state’s residents cross over state borders to legally play casinos, most notably, into neighboring Mississippi or North Carolina.

Tennessee’s Land-based Casinos

Given the Volunteer State’s strict anti-casino laws, many of Tennessee’s residents are required to travel in order to fulfil their casino gambling needs. Tunica, Mississippi is the most convenient and nearest casino town for the majority of residents of Tennessee. Only about three hours from Nashville, and less than an hour from Memphis by car, Tunica is home to a number of gambling venues, ranging from small OTB racinos to full-scale casino resort properties with table games, top-shelf restaurants and live entertainment.

Online Casinos in Tennessee

Online gaming options in Tennessee that can be played legally by online gambling aficionados are limited exclusively to horse racing betting and DFS competitions. (See above in the ‘Sports Betting in Tennessee’ section for information on the Volunteer State’s strict anti-gambling laws).

Online players in Tennessee are advised to refrain from using both U.S. based online casinos and off-shore sites and not run the risk of running afoul of the state laws until the Volunteer State’s lawmakers can get up to speed by expanding Tennessee’s legal online gambling options. In the meantime, online players can use the legal online gaming options, DFS and horse racing betting.

Horse Racing Betting in Tennessee

Under Tennessee racing laws, licensed horse racing and simulcast betting at licensed OTB facilities are all permissible. The state however, does not have any operating racetracks.

The state’s racing industry will soon be overseen and administered by the recently legalized (under bills SB 1908, and SB 346 / HB 814) State Horse Racing Commission.

Track Side: There are no legal or licensed horse racing tracks currently operating in Tennessee.

Off-Track Betting (OTB): Tennessee has several ‘satellite tele-theaters’ that operate as OTB locations for simulcast betting.

Online Betting on Horse Racing in Tennessee: Thankfully, given the limited number of options for online bettors in the state of Tennessee, it is possible to place horse racing wagers online without any fear of punishment under the state’s quite strict gambling laws.

Excellent online odds are available for Tennessee’s online horse racing fans on all the major horse racing venues worldwide and thoroughbred racing venues across the United States directly from their phones, tablets, smartwatches, other mobile devices or home computers.

Tennessee’s Daily Fantasy Sports Law

Federal lawmakers have decreed that Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) are contests of skill and not considered to be gambling. Subsequently, DFS is therefore immune from all forms of Federal gambling regulation or intervention.

State governments across the United States have been exercising their state rights, and consequently, they have been legalizing DFS and regulating the practice under their respective state laws.

Tennessee’s gaming laws do not restrict real money DFS competitions and DFS sites are free to offer their real money competitions to residents and visitors to the Volunteer State.

In April 2016, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed the Fantasy Sports Act into State law. The act specifically legalized DFS and the operators are required to obtain a license from the Secretary of State.

Once licensed, fantasy site operators must adhere to a number of regulations;

  • $2500 per month Deposit Limit for Players.
  • Players’ funds must be kept in a separate bank account and must not be combined with the fantasy site’s operational funds.
  • Players must be at least 18 years old and not hold multiple DFS accounts.
  • Fantasy sites must maintain records of all player accounts for five years.
  • Preventing employees from participating in paid contests and more.
  • Combating problem gambling.

Under these regulations, DFS games for real money are offered in Tennessee without any hinderance from state authorities and the industry is in full-swing.

DFS Explained

Playing a DFS competition is a unique game and is totally different to traditional sports wagering. In a DFS league, you are given a virtual salary cap which is used to ‘draft’ real-world players into your virtual team. Every player in each league is priced according to their perceived virtual market value based on career and current season performances. If you wish to draft the best home run hitter in the MLB, for example, you’re going to have to spend a high percentage of your salary cap on that single star slugger.

Once you have drafted and ‘paid’ for your team, take a seat, watch your week’s games and your team’s points are calculated online by the DFS operator. Your team’s real-life star athletes amass stats (touchdowns, goals, assists, rebounds, strikeouts, yards gained, receptions, etc.) in the real-world matches and accordingly, your DFS team accumulates points online. The person whose team accumulates the most points, wins the regular season or a stand-alone playoff ‘league’. Big money can be won each week or over the course of an entire season, and monster cash prizes of more than $1 million per league can potentially paid out to winners of each separate DFS competition.

Poker Laws in Tennessee

Despite being a game of skill, live poker is not permissible under the Tennessee State Law (39-17-501 of the Tennessee State Code) strict definition of gambling;

‘Gambling is contrary to the public policy of this state and means risking anything of value for a profit whose return is to any degree contingent on chance, or any games of chance associated with casinos, including, but not limited to, slot machines, roulette wheels and the like..’

The term “to any degree contingent on chance” is open to interpretation and as poker does include some element of chance, it is classified as gambling in Tennessee and is considered to be illegal. No exception has been carved out under the law allowing for social or ‘home’ poker between friends.

Online Poker Laws in Tennessee

Online Poker is a definite no-no in Tennessee. See above sections, ‘Sports Betting in Tennessee’, and ‘Poker Rooms’ for further clarification.

eSports Betting in Tennessee

It may seem a long way off now, however, once legal sports betting, and therefore esports betting, becomes reality in Tennessee, gamblers in the state will be able to access transparent betting markets untarnished with an illegal or underground history.

‘eSports’ explained

Since multi-player video gaming started in the early 2000s, the game’s players have constantly been conspiring to outscore their opponents.

Now, eSports (professional video game play at-the-highest-level) have cultivated big global betting markets based on the outcomes of the all the worldwide tournaments.

The players battle for glory in games like Dota 2, Rocket League and CS;GO worldwide in a series of networked tournaments. Growing rapidly, the eSports industry is expected to cross the $1 billion threshold in late 2018 / early 2019 and keeps growing quickly year-on-year.

When sports betting finally graces your favorite legal Tennessee sports book, look for legal eSports wagering to play a prominent role in your available betting types.

Benefits of Legal Gambling to Tennessee

  • With little Tennessee State Government revenue being raised from legalized gambling (outside the Tennessee ‘Education’ Lottery), the Volunteer State Government could potentially benefit with legalization.
  • Since the introduction of the Tennessee Education Lottery in 2003, it has generated more than $4.7 billion in funding for higher education, energy-efficient school classrooms, after-school programs, libraries, scholarships and adult vocational-training programs.
  • Legalized, licensed and regulated online gambling, sports betting and/or commercial casino gambling could further improve the state’s infrastructure and services.
  • Additional State Government Revenue could be generated by the state’s tourism sector and associated service industries with legalized gambling, ensuing in much-needed job creation.

Gambling History in Tennessee

1906; A wholesale ban of all gambling in Tennessee introduced.

2003; Tennessee’s State ‘Education’ Lottery begins.

2005; Tennessee’s Attorney-General clarifies that Poker remains illegal.

2010; Charitable Gambling (Bingo and raffles) begins under strict guidelines after huge floods in the state, to raise funds for those left homeless.

2016; Fantasy Sports Act legalizes DFS competitions in Tennessee.

2017; Bills SB 1908, and SB 346 / HB 814 create the State Horse Racing Commission.



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