NASHVILLE — With Tennessee online sports gambling set to go live Nov. 1, Tennessee Education Lottery officials this week granted conditional betting licenses to its first sportsbook operators — high-profile FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM.
The Lottery Board's Sports Wagering Committee approved the first group of gambling firms' applications at its Wednesday meeting. Also approved was the operation's first supplier application and 26 vendor applications.
Officials intend to hold follow-up meetings on Oct. 5 and Oct. 16 to take up more applications and review additional information from licensees before the intended Nov. 1 go-live date.
"The staff at the Tennessee Lottery performed a tremendous amount of work and due diligence to prepare us for these decisions today," TEL Board Chair Susan Lanigan said in a news release. "We appreciate their efforts as we work to establish and support a responsible and competitive sports wagering program in Tennessee."
A 2019 state law allows wagering on sporting events via the internet, mobile device or other telecommunications platforms. Customers must be at least 21 years old to play and be physically inside Tennessee when placing bets.
The Tennessee Lottery is responsible for the licensing and regulation of online sports wagering in Tennessee. The lottery does not serve as an operator, only as regulator.
"We will continue to work with all parties involved to protect the consumer, promote fairness in sports and regulate this new Tennessee industry that provides critical funds to the state and local governments," lottery President and CEO Rebecca Hargrove said.
There are three categories of potential applicants: licensee (operator), supplier and vendor.
The planned Nov. 1 launch date of sports gambling came following months of delays amid bickering both last year and earlier this year over rules. Among the problems, Gov. Bill Lee and others were slow to appoint members to a sports wagering advisory council. Then came months of wrangling.
Passage of a bill took years and there are critics who say the rules favor national sportsbook companies and lock out Tennessee-based efforts.
Legislative proponents of the venture are betting it will bring in new money to state coffers.
Sports gaming companies will pay a 20% privilege tax. Legislative analysts last year estimated gambling could bring in $41 million for the state and $7.6 million for local governments. They also projected it could bring in $2.5 million for the Department of Mental Health to fund gambling-addiction programs.
Fifteen percent of proceeds are to go to cities' and counties' road and infrastructure projects.
Contact Andy Sher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.