Greeson: Betting legal now; betting legally not likely until 2020

Greeson: Betting legal now; betting legally not likely until 2020

August 20th, 2019 by Jay Greeson in Opinion Columns

For a lot of us, the perception of the season changes long before the weather.

College football season starts Saturday with Florida taking on Miami in Orlando.

So, while it may be 90-plus degrees, the boys of fall are here.

What's not here is the chance to bet on the boys of fall.

Yes, Tennessee has legalized sports wagering. It was supposed to start on July 1. In a perfect world it would have been in place for the start of football season, easily the most popular sport to gamble on around around the country.

The news shared by TFP reporter Andy Sher earlier this month that the nine-person oversight board has not been filled screams that the safe bet is betting against betting this fall.

As Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, the Republican Senate speaker, told Sher and other Nashville reporters 10 days ago: "I believe that the general feeling was it would probably take effect in the fall, but I think it might be longer than that. It seems to be moving fairly slowly."

According to Brian Pempus of, the leading advocate sees January as the starting point for legalized online betting in the state.

Jay Greeson

Jay Greeson

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

The original launch hope, according to Rep. Rick Staples, who sponsored the legislation, was in October, but that was not doable.

Staples told TnBets: "It will be November at the earliest. I have a pin stuck in January, in time for the NBA playoffs and March Madness in the spring. I really do believe that by the time the Steelers play in the Super Bowl in February, people will be able to place wagers in Tennessee."

Staples' unrealistic pick of the Steelers aside, the fact that Tennessee is in position to start later this year or early next still is pretty impressive, considering it is the only state to pass sports gambling legislation without a brick-and-mortar betting operation or casino.

The short-term loss of millions in tax dollars — Mississippi betting operations collected more than $5.5 million in September last year in sports betting revenue, according to — is balanced by the long-term promise of the Tennessee plan.

Tennessee is poised to have the first online-only betting system, a great decision that gives the state future flexibility as it moves forward. (And let's be honest, if you are not addressing online concerns first and foremost these days, then your business model is flawed from the start.)

What that means in the state of Tennessee is that you will not have to go to a casino or a kiosk or a traditional brick-and-mortar facility to make a wager. Working through the Tennessee Lottery and the nine-person board — eventually, that is — the future looks bright for the direction of the state's sports betting initiative.

Hey, good things come to those who wait, right?

Contact Jay Greeson at

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