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What happens in Vegas is not the only thing that stays in Vegas.

America's gambling dollars frequently stay in the Nevada tourist haven of decadence. The home of the $5.99 lobster dinner is kept afloat by the rivers of dollars risked on all sorts of games.

Dice games. Card games. And, yes, sports games.

In fact, next week is the biggest gambling week of the year. No, no one moved the Super Bowl.

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Jay Greeson

No, next week is the start of March Madness, and according to the American Gaming Association more than $9 billion will be wagered, bet and risked on the NCAA basketball tournament.

More than 95 percent of that money will be gambled illegally, as far from Vegas as the annual Times Free Press office pool. (For entertainment purposes only, of course.)

While Vegas certainly would love to have all $9 billion bet in its sports books, the bigger loss for Nevada could come from Washington, D.C.

Las Vegas' spot as the epicenter of legalized wagering in this country could change in coming days. The Supreme Court is hearing a case brought by New Jersey and former Gov. Chris Christie challenging a federal law forbidding states from legalizing sports betting.

Experts from Fox to the Sports Business Journal and the Wall Street Journal have reported that all signs are pointing to the court siding with New Jersey, which will open legalized sports betting for each state.

How far has the process come?

Indiana and Kentucky already have state bills on the agenda for 2018. The NBA is planning to ask for 1 percent of all bets made on its games as a commission. Current sports internet destinations Draft Kings and Fan Duel — two sites that welcome millions of fantasy sports participants — have hired Vegas gaming experts.

It feels like this is happening. And sooner rather than later.

Why is Tennessee not moving on this?

Georgia, according to research, is among the states ready to pounce when the gavel falls.

So we'll ask again, why is Tennessee not in position to make the most of this?

It's not like the Volunteer State couldn't use the money.

Heck, name a part of our state funding that needs more money. Schools? Yep. Roads? Uh, yes please. Law enforcement, health, services and everything in between? You know it.

Think of the possibilities.

The revenue from state-regulated sports gambling could be a boon for almost every state.

How much could it be? Well, while the gaming and casino comparisons would never be even, Las Vegas casinos took in more than $1 billion in the month of January alone.

Even on a much smaller scale, this is a chance for states to get in on the revenue stream of something that is already happening.

As for those who want to debate the morality of legalized gambling, well, let's discuss it.

Is legalized sports gambling better or worse than alcohol sales?

Is it better or worse than selling tobacco?

Is it better or worse than, well, fill in the blank?

And let's go a step further, especially here in Tennessee. If the state is worried about citizens becoming addicted to gambling or spending money they shouldn't on games of chance, well, what exactly is the Tennessee Education Lottery?

This is happening, folks. Whether it happens before March Madness is doubtful, since the case has been before the court since last year.

But there is no doubting that the folks in Nashville are asleep at the switch at an opportunity to generate more revenue for state obligations.

And you can bet on that. Sadly.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com and 423-757-6343.

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