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Jay Greeson

OK, we have discussed this issue more than once.

Legalized sports betting is coming.

The Tennessee attorney general issued an opinion last week that sports wagering was an effort of skill more than an endeavor of chance. That, if you have ever made a bet, is debatable.

But this opens the door for the Tennessee General Assembly to legalize sports gambling — a door that more and more states are trying to unlock on a weekly basis.

Consider the following:

* There are eight states with full-scale legalized sports betting;

* There are two states — New York and Arkansas — that have recently passed laws to allow forms of sports wagering;

* There are 17 more that have bills on the floor of their various state houses asking for legalized sports wagering.

That final number seem high — if all 17 pass, that would mean more states in the union have legalized sports wagering than don't — but like the cliche goes, timing is everything.

Tennessee is among the 17 with legislation proposed by former state House member and state Sen.-elect Ramesh Akbari from Memphis that has the short title of the "Tennessee Sports Gaming Act." State Rep. Rick Staples, D-Knoxville, has filed a similar bill in November.

Of note, however, is the fact that Republican Gov.-elect Bill Lee has said publicly he opposes legalized sports betting.

The timing of the bills' introduction is not unexpected, given that the states that have already passed laws to legalize sports wagering could get 'grandfather' exceptions as D.C. bigwigs now are trying to get their hands into the kitty of the revenue generated by legalizing sports wagering in the states.

Just this week, there was bipartisan requests from Congress to examine federal regulations about sports gambling.

First, the bill states that legalized sports wagering in Tennessee will be decided by local election. So if Hamilton County wants it, we get to vote on it.

As for the split of gambling revenue, from there the details are devilish.

There is a 10 percent tax on money made (i.e., house winnings).

According to that bill: 40 percent of that taxed money will be sent to the state treasurer for deposit into the general fund to be used at the discretion of the General Assembly; 30 percent will be sent to the state treasurer and directed to "to each Tennessee college of applied technology and community college in this state on a per capita basis, based on student population as to each local government in the state on a per capita basis, as determined by population.

This last point begs the question of whether the counties that say "no thanks" to legalized sports betting still get to cash the checks from those counties that do.

Cities such as Nashville and Memphis and Knoxville and Chattanooga — places that are a) much larger, b) renowned tourists spots and/or c) located on borders with other states that do not have legalized gambling — would generate way way more money from sports betting. And for that money to go to all of the state schools and every local government even if they do not legalize sports wagering does not seem fair.

As for what's at stake, well, there's this: Mississippi, the first state in the region to legalize sports betting, took in $44 million in bets in November alone. For comparisons sake, according to Mississippi Today, the Magnolia State made $660,000 from sports betting on $5.5 million wagered in September. So, if you multiply that $660,000 by eight and the same levels of success and failure happened, Mississippi made way more than $5 million for its roads and infrastructure in November alone.

We've talked about how this was coming. It looks like it's here and happening in Tennessee sooner rather than later.

And considering the D.C. folks are about to get in on this too, time is of the essence.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-4363.

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