Gov. Bill Lee to allow Tennessee online sports betting bill to become law without his signature

In this April 25, 2019, file photo, Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee talks to reporters at the Capitol in Nashville, Tenn. More than half of Lee's newly appointed cabinet members, including his education czar and Tennessee's Medicaid chief, didn't submit applications or provide any documents outlining why they deserved the jobs he gave them. The Associated Press reviewed all applications submitted to Lee's office during his transition into the top statewide position. This included submissions for both cabinet spots and lower level jobs inside the executive branch. (AP Photo/Kimberlee Kruesi, File)

NASHVILLE - Gov. Bill Lee plans to allow a just-passed Tennessee online sports betting measure become law without his signature, his spokeswoman said Tuesday.

"The governor has said he does not believe that the expansion is best, but he recognizes that many in the legislature found this to be an issue they want to explore further," Lee spokeswoman Laine Arnold said in a statement. "He plans to let this become law without his signature."

Earlier Tuesday, the House narrowly approved Senate amendments to the bill on a 51-40 vote. A bill requires a minimum of 50 votes to pass the House.

Earlier, House Bill 1 passed the Senate on a 19-12 vote.

Sponsored by Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, and Rep. Rick Staples, D-Knoxville, the measure would allow and regulate statewide mobile and interactive sports gambling for persons ages 21 and over.

Tennessee Education Lottery officials would be in charge of implementing and overseeing the program which would impose a 20% privilege tax on online gambling, estimated to bring in $41 million for the lottery, $7.6 million for local governments, and $2.5 million for the Department of Mental Health to fund gambling-addiction programs.

Dickerson says sports gambling is already widespread in Tennessee and his legislation will bring it "off the street corners" and put it under regulation.

Critics say odds are that legalizing sports betting will boost addiction problems. Bill opponent Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, told colleagues during debate that it turns the current "black market" into a government-sanctioned "gray" market.

The original bill, which would have permitted brick-and-mortar betting shops, was eliminated from the measure due to Lee's opposition.

Following the House's final action, bill sponsor Staples said the money going to city and county governments is intended for road and other infrastructure needs. The local governments are getting a 15 percent share of proceeds, he said.

Contact Andy Sher at or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.