The summer doldrums are not just for TV or bored school-aged kids.
The ever-growing market for legalized sports gambling dips in the summer months, too. But it's not from vacations, per se, as much as the declining number of high-profile betting events between the end of NCAA basketball's March Madness and the start of the professional and college football seasons.
"A slowdown is inevitable in April without football or a major sports betting holiday like the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament to draw bettors to sports books," Alec Cunningham, lead analyst for "PlayTenn.com Alec Cunningham," says on that website.
"Importantly, strong year-over-year performance shows the industry has so far largely been unaffected by headwinds in the greater economy," Cunningham continued. "But that is something sports books will have to watch over the coming months."
An expectation of slower summer months is commonplace across the sports gambling world.
Tennessee's late entry into the sports betting arena has not damaged the state's revenue intake from legal wagering. The April 2022 "handle" — the total amount of money wagered with legalized sports betting partners in Tennessee — was below $300 million, which was the lowest monthly total since August 2021.
Still, compared to April 2021, when the COVID shadow was still looming over every aspect of our daily lives, the growth is staggering. There are nine online operators working with Tennessee regulators this year compared to the four options available in April 2021, and a year-over-year "handle" increase of almost 70% is hard to ignore.
According to numbers released by the Tennessee Sports Wagering Advisory Council, Tennesseans legally wagered $292.8 million in April 2022 after betting $172.4 million in 2021. Those nine-figure betting volumes generate eight-figures of revenue from the online sites, which spins off seven-figure tax income for the state.
In April, the state's online partners collected net proceeds of more than $23 million, which generated $4.6 million in tax revenue for Tennessee. It's the latest infusion to a growing pool of funds the state uses primarily for education (80% goes to K-12 and the HOPE scholarship efforts) as well as other projects including infrastructure efforts (15%) and fighting gambling addiction (5%).
Hamilton County mayor Jim Coppinger said earlier this spring he was unaware of any specific Hamilton County infrastructure projects the gambling taxes have gone toward, but the numbers are climbing. Tennesseans have wagered more than $4.3 billion since November 2020 when betting was first made available. The state has collected more than $16 million in tax revenue through the first four months of 2022.
Tennessee's locale and the fact that it borders eight states has allowed it to be a betting destination for those just across the state lines who do not have legalized betting options.
"I drive into Chattanooga and place a bet (on big games like the Super Bowl)" Pat, a North Georgia resident, emailed in response to a question about those interested in legally betting on the Super Bowl.
Georgia is one of the states that didn't get its legislative ducks in a row before the session ended, which means the Peach State will have to wait at least a year — and likely much longer considering the details that must be worked through — before legalized gambling will be available.
Efforts in Alabama, Missouri, and Kentucky also have been stalled, which means interested bettors in those states will no doubt keep coming to Tennessee for legal options.
"It really feels like Georgia was trying to shoehorn too many disparate categories of gambling into the proposed constitutional amendment bill at the 11th hour," says Daniel Wallach, one of America's pre-eminent sports betting lawyers and the host of the "Conduct Detrimental" podcast. "The (Georgia) House, in particular, was trying to take on too much in a gambling-averse state, and it would have been next to impossible to address all of the betting things [before the legislative deadline]."
Wallach is co-founding director of the University of New Hampshire School of Law's Sports Wagering and Integrity Program, the nation's first program of its kind. As more and more states legalize sports gambling — every state in the union but Idaho and Utah has either legalized sports betting or has legislation in its statehouse on it — Wallach's experience points him toward Georgia getting there, too. But not until next year.
And in the ever-uncertain world of sports betting, this much is certain: Fewer competitors means more money for the state of Tennessee in the meantime.